gay hate crimeThe NSW Government announced that it will establish a Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ Hate Crimes, with the Honourable Justice John Sackar as Commissioner to lead the Inquiry

The Inquiry will have the responsibility of looking into the manner and cause of death in all unsolved suspected LGBTIQ hate crime deaths in the state between 1970 and 2010, where the death was the subject of a previous investigation by NSW Police.

It will also examine the manner and cause of death in all cases from the 88 deaths or suspected deaths previously investigated by Strike Force Parrabell that remain unsolved.

For decades, sexuality and gender diverse people in NSW were subjected to horrific hate crimes. This epidemic of violence, along with the slow and inadequate responses to many of these crimes, has left a painful legacy for the loved ones of victims, survivors, their families, and the broader community.

Significant questions remain, and they cannot be allowed to persist unanswered because evidence and memory have been lost. Many of the survivors and the perpetrators may not be with us for much longer.

It will be imperative that the Commission has strong powers to compel witnesses, follow up on leads, and investigate the suspected involvement of police in some of the acts of reported violence.

It will need to uncover where there have been systematic failures and wrongdoing, particularly in law enforcement systems and justice agencies. This will be critical to ensuring this does not happen again.

These crimes took place at a time when many in the community, in public services, law enforcement and judicial agencies thought sexuality and gender diverse people were sick, perverted or criminals. This was reflected not only in terms of the horrific acts of violence committed against the LGBTQI+ Community but also in how the system responded apathetically and with inertness to these atrocities.

Although increasingly a minority, some of these same attitudes about LGBTQ+ people persist today.

We know through recent breakthroughs in decades-old cases that additional inquiries, sustained community and media focus, and increased resourcing elevate these crimes in the public eye and move us closer to righting past wrongs.

Many people and organisations have worked tirelessly over many years in bringing attention to past fatal violence and facilitating justice for those impacted by these crimes.

The establishment of a judicial inquiry or another form of expert review was among five recommendations of the final report in the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues ‘Inquiry into Gay and Transgender Hate Crimes Between 1970 and 2010’. That inquiry began in 2018 and the report was tabled last year.