Apology to Mardi Gras 1978 Participants
I add my voice to the apology to the 78ers. Those brave individuals stood up and continue to stand up against the bullying and intimidation of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex [LGBTQI] community. Their fight is not only about bullying and intimidation; it is about discrimination and, more importantly, State-sanctioned abuse of those people to whom we are apologising. I thank my colleagues for outlining eloquently and articulately the events of that night and the trauma that was experienced. I do not wish to add to those comments. I merely wish to pay my respects to everyone who experienced trauma that night. I thank the 78ers for what they did on that night and for what they have done since then. I was only seven years old in 1978 but the events of that night had a profound influence on people close to me. My parents always made an effort, which was no doubt influenced by that night, to ensure that our family provided a safe place for lesbians and gays. It was a safe place for all of our friends. When I was 15 years old my sister had a lesbian friend who used to spend days at our house because she was too scared to go home with her partner—even at 20, 21, 25 and 28. I knew that it was wrong. It was inspiring to me that my parents provided a safe place for her to have a relationship and to experience the acceptance of a family. For years no-one knew another friend from school, Tony, was gay. After reading something I realised that one of my dearest friends was gay and he had never told me. In fact, he told only one person because he was frightened of the bullying and intimidation he would receive. I have red hair; I was bullied at school—I understand that. But I did not have the pressure of governments, churches, family and every other social structure in life telling me that I was wrong—I cannot understand that. We must support programs like Safe Schools in our State. Our schools must be a safe place for every student, no matter what their background or beliefs. For that reason, I want our governments to act on marriage equality; a plebiscite will not help. We must teach our kids in school to understand the need for equality, freedom of expression and about love, which is the most important thing to every human being in the world. If our government leaders do not make the decision and leave it to the people who think it is okay to persecute members of our community and to spread division, then we have lost the ground that was gained in 1978. I urge the 78ers to continue their fight. I pledge my support to that fight. I will continue to work in my community, in this place and in the broader society for equality. I thank the 78ers for their efforts and for inspiring me. I offer an apology on behalf of us all. Most importantly, I offer my own apology. Although I have not done anything to discriminate against others, it is terrible that I live in a society that has done so. I do not want to have any part of that sort of society, and I apologise unreservedly. Thank you.