A NSW inquiry starting today will investigate the cause of every unsolved suspected murder of a member of the LGBTIQ+ community between 1970 and 2010.
This will include the suspected murders gay men and transgender women in a wave of hate crimes peaking during the AIDS epidemic in Sydney.
The inquiry is not a criminal investigation, but will make recommendations for further action.
A large number of gay men and transgender women disappeared in suspicious circumstances or were killed in NSW between 1970 and 2000, peaking at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
The community health organisation ACON, which has led calls for an inquiry, says there is evidence many of these were murders fuelled by prejudice.
“The scope and intensity of the violence is shocking and unsettling… the epidemic of violence during these decades [has] left a legacy,” ACON said in a 2018 report documenting the deaths.
In 2018, a NSW Police investigation named ‘Strike Force Parrabell’ found 88 murders were potentially motivated by hate bias. This prompted a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, which published its final report in 2021.
That report noted the total figure of hate-related deaths was likely to be under-reported, including among the transgender, lesbian and bisexual communities. In particular, murders of lesbian and bisexual women may have been filed as domestic violence, as they are commonly committed by a male ex-partner. The report recommended the establishment of the Special Inquiry, which is now underway.
In the foreword to the report, Chair Shayne Mallard said that “while decades have passed since the brutality and tragedy of history’s gay and transgender hate crimes… the hurt from these crimes has not.”
The report also found the NSW Police Force failed “in its responsibility to properly investigate” the hate crimes, which has “undermined the confidence of [LGBTIQ+] communities in the NSW Police Force and the criminal justice system more broadly.”
“Hate crimes hurt both physically and emotionally, individually and communally and have – for some – resulted in isolation, vulnerability and internalised stigma… The process of re-visiting these cases is but one step in a long path towards justice”.Foreword to ACON’s 2018 report