March against gay murders


By Philip Baker

SYDNEY — More than 800 gays and lesbians and supporters marched in a May 12 protest against bashings and of lesbians and gay men and the murders of several gays. The march was sponsored by groups including the Gay Solidarity Group, Dykes on Bikes and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

It was held in the inner-west suburbs of Newtown and Camperdown to highlight a recent spate of attacks and murders in that area, well beyond the known high-risk areas of the inner east.

In January 1990, Richard Johnson was kicked and beaten to death in Alexandria Park by eight youths who recently stood trial for murder. Three were jailed for murder, while five were convicted of manslaughter.

Wayne Tonks, a schoolteacher at Cleveland Street High, a school attended by some of Johnson's killers, was found dead in his flat at Artarmon on the north shore, bound head and foot and with his head in a plastic bag.

Detective Sergeant Steve McCann, who has tracked down the killers in several gay murders, believes one gang may have murdered at least six gay men, including Tonks, over the past three years. In three cases, the victims' names and telephone numbers were written on toilet walls, and in three more the bodies were dumped off McKenzies Point, South Bondi.

Amid a rise in lesbian and gay bashing in inner suburbs such as Newtown and Darlinghurst, six weeks ago another gay man was murdered in Newtown. Gays and lesbians have begun organising self-defence, including their own patrols. Police, despite some attempts to improve liaison with gay and lesbian organisations, have often ignored calls for help and in a few cases actually participated in attacks.

As most of the attackers appear to be aged 15-20, education programs in schools could improve the situation. Community group One In Seven has launched a campaign targeting institutions fostering prejudice and hatred on the basis of sexual preference.