As is well known, there are a few apologies floating around over the events, and aftermath, of the June 24, 1978 Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney. First The Sydney Morning Herald, then the Legislative Assembly of the NSW Parliament. An apology from the police force, we are told, will be a “whole of government” decision. I won’t hold my breath.

But I did get my first naming in the SMH in the aftermath of the Mardi Gras violence. My first byline, as it were.

There is a weird disjuncture here. The SMH apology suggests that publishing the names, addresses and occupations of those arrested in the ’78 Mardi Gras was, at the time, some sort of “standard procedure”. But that is utter nonsense.

It was simply never the case that the SMH published, as a matter of “standard procedure”, the names of the hundreds of people a week arrested in Sydney in those days. It’s complete bullshit.

In the last half of the 1970s I was arrested on a number of occasions over political actions.

Other than June 24, 1978, my name was never reported. Indeed, the SMH (let alone the police) would have looked like proper dills on the occasion that I was arrested, under my own name, with 12 women who gave their names as Emma Goldman. The SMH certainly didn’t report this. The ghost of Emma Goldman would have smiled.

The simple truth is that the publication of names, addresses and occupations at the time was a calculated effort by the police, aided and abetted by the SMH. Each party was aware, at the time, of the effect it would produce on those named. Those effects have been attested to in the last few days by ’78ers, and include the suicide of some of those named in the SMH. An apology from the SMH, let alone the NSW police, should reflect the catastrophic effects of their actions.

Some 13 years later I became a stringer for Fairfax papers, where I worked for a decade, and have filed occasionally since then. I got hundreds of bylines subsequent to first being named in the SMH in June 1978. I am proud of the work that I did for papers such as the SMH and The Age. I was working with some of the best journalists of the day, and the SMH‘s current editor-in-chief was one of them.

As such, I have no animus towards Fairfax — far from it. I worked with the best. But the current “apology” from the SMH doesn’t go far enough; there is a back story that should be acknowledged and, perhaps, explored.

Peter Fray

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