Sydney's 1978 Mardi Gras activists get official apology

A file photo of a gay pride Australian flag on display during a Sydney parade Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Australian state of New South Wales in 1984

Gay rights activists who were beaten during Sydney's inaugural Mardi Gras in 1978 have received a formal apology in the New South Wales parliament.

Cheers rang out at the parliament following the apology in Sydney.

The march, borne out of solidarity for New York's Stonewall movement, called for sodomy laws to be abolished and an end to discrimination.

But it was met with unexpected police violence, mass arrests and public shaming.

Fairfax media has apologised for outing the 53 people involved by publishing their names, addresses and occupations.

It is unclear whether the NSW Police Force will issue a separate apology.

The apology received a standing ovation on the Parliament floor and within the public gallery, which included some of the original "78ers".

Image copyright Christine Forster
Image caption Sydney councillor, and the lesbian sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott, Christine Forster tweeted this image of the apology

"I hope it's not too late that you can accept an apology but also we want to recognise that for all of that pain that you went through, you brought about fundamental change in this society and fundamental change for the many gay and lesbian people like myself, who can be open and relaxed about ourselves," member for Sydney suburb Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, said.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich thanked the 78ers for helping NSW become "the gayest parliament" in Australia's history.

"We are all here because of your bravery, your courage, your sacrifice," he said.

The march was held on a global day of activism to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969, which followed police raids on New York's Stonewall Inn gay bar.

A crowd of around 500 Sydney demonstrators reportedly swelled to around 1500 as equal rights activists marched along Oxford Street chanting "ho-ho-homosexual".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gay pride flags marked the 40th anniversary of the New York Stonewall riots in 2009

Peter Murphy was 25 when he was detained during the mass arrests, "singled out and bashed, thoroughly".

"There were just two police present and only one of them beat me," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Over the past four decades, Sydney's annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras has grown into a vibrant mainstream event.

Local media says the rally is expected pump almost $40 million into the NSW economy.

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