Victoria formally apologises for historic gay laws

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews issues a formal apology to people affected by historic laws that criminalised homosexuality. Source: AAP

SBS World News Radio: The state of Victoria has issued a formal apology to people affected by decades-old laws that made homosexuality a criminal offence.

The state of Victoria has issued a formal apology to people affected by decades-old laws that made homosexuality a criminal offence.

Premier Daniel Andrew's statement -- delivered to an audience in parliament that included men who were jailed for being gay -- is believed to be a world first.

For 84-year old Noel Tovey, the apology has been a long time coming.

"Well, it's taken 64 years, and I never thought I'd live to see the day when it happened in Australia, but particularly in Victoria. I think it's a huge step forward for the government and for the people."

Noel Tovey was arrested and jailed in 1951 for what was called "the abominable crime of buggery".

Mr Tovey says he was raped in jail.

He sat in the Victorian parliament's gallery to hear Premier Daniel Andrews speak these words.

"On behalf of the parliament, the government and the people of Victoria: for the laws we passed, and the lives we ruined, and the standards we set, we are so sorry. Humbly, deeply sorry."

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Victoria in 1981, and convictions were able to be expunged from 2014.

Once out of prison, Mr Tovey embarked on an international stage career.

But his conviction followed him into his professional life.

"I made my professional debut in 1954 and several of the dancers, including the principle dancer, went to the English choreographer and said they didn't want to work with me. When she asked them why they said that I was a notorious homosexual who had been in jail and I was aboriginal."

Mr Tovey is already looking to the future and the next political fight: same-sex marriage.

There are men of my age who have been together with their partners for many, many years - they don't want to get married but they want the law to be there for those people that do and I think it's ridiculous that there's a plebiscite about it because every Catholic country in the world has accepted it."

 

 

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