LGBTI community orgs seeking justice for gay hate victims profiled in SBS’s ‘Deep Water’

With SBS’s Deep Water programs bringing a dark chapter of NSW’s history into sharp focus over the next two weeks, local LGBTI* organisations are ramping up efforts to deliver justice for the victims of historic gay hate crimes.

From the late 1970s through to the early 1990s, up to 80 gay men were killed and hundreds more assaulted during a wave of anti-gay violence that swept through Sydney. Many cases remain unsolved and there are questions over the thoroughness of the police investigations at the time.

Through a process called Operation Parrabell, NSW Police are currently reviewing investigations to determine if gay hate was a motive.   

ACON – NSW’s leading HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health organisation – the Inner City Legal Centre (ICLC), the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and Dowson Turco Lawyers are collaborating on a broad-ranging response to the crimes. ACON is also conducting its own review into a range of cases and is reporting findings to its community partners which also include the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the Deep Water programming and content will help focus attention on the struggle to bring justice to the victims and their loved ones. “We welcome the Deep Water drama series, documentary and online content that SBS has developed and we congratulate the broadcaster for shining a national spotlight on this important issue for our community,” Mr Parkhill says. “Increasing awareness of this horrific period in our recent history will not only help generate momentum for advocacy around justice, but it will also play a crucial role in helping people across Australia really appreciate the value of an inclusive society where everyone belongs.”   

GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said the huge platform offered by a national broadcaster will help ensure the call for justice for the victims of gay hate crimes will be remembered. “The response to Deep Water will help acknowledge and heal the significant trauma these crimes have caused for the loved ones of the victims as well as the LGBTI community,” Mr Pycroft said. “The facts are that there were dozens of deaths in and around beats between 1985 and 1995 that remain unsolved. During this time gay men lived in an atmosphere of extraordinary fear.  Justice and recognition of crimes perpetrated on men based on their sexuality is important, not only for the families involved, but for our entire community.”

ICLC Director Vicki Harding said a continued media spotlight combined with the collaborative approach of relevant LGBTI community partners will hopefully deliver healing and justice. “Sydney, in particular, was experiencing an epidemic of gay-hate crimes, expressed through violent and incredibly brutal bashings and murders. Compounding this was the fear and panic around the emergence of HIV/AIDS and the notion that, for some in our community, gay men were vectors of disease and death,” Ms Harding said. “The work we’re undertaking not only champions the call for justice, but is also raising awareness about community safety and the importance of valuing and celebrating diversity in our community.”

Dowson Turco Lawyers act for Alan Rosendale who was a gay bashing victim in 1989 and who was interviewed by SBS for the documentary Deep Water: The Real Story. “Dowson Turco Lawyers and Mr Rosendale are hugely grateful to the SBS, ACON, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Inner City Legal Centre for their contribution towards raising community awareness and understanding surrounding the Sydney gay bashings of the 1980s and 1990s,” DTL Partner Nicholas Stewart said.

Mr Parkhill added that he hopes the media attention may encourage people with new information and details about these crimes to come forward. “We also hope that the drama series and documentary raises awareness and promotes conversations, so that new information can come to the attention of police. We believe there are people out there that have information, and we are confident the police will take on board any new information from the community that might help solve these crimes.” Mr Parkhill said. People with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Given the subject matter of Deep Water, ACON can provide services for any community members or victims’ loved ones who may be distressed by the content. ACON provides counselling, care coordination and referral support for LGBTI people and those affected by HIV. To make an inquiry please call (02) 9206 2000 or visit

ACON is also working with Waverley Council to construct a memorial to the victims of gay hate crimes in Bondi’s Hunter Sculpture Park. A community consultation process is due to commence in the near future. People interested in finding out more or registering their interest can contact ACON’s Michael Atkinson on (02) 9206 2032 or [email protected]. All enquiries will be completely confidential.

The Deep Water drama series premieres on October 5 on SBS TV and is followed by the feature-length documentary, Deep Water: The Real Story on Sunday October 16 at 8.30pm on SBS.

ENDS | *LGBTI = Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex


For more information please contact:

David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications Officer

E: [email protected]   T: +61 (02) 9206 2044   M: +61 (0)428 477 042

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