• Marchers at 1978 protest marked as the first Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. (The Pride History Group)Source: The Pride History Group
The editor in chief of the Sydney Morning Herald has apologised for the paper's historical coverage of the first official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978.
Drew Sheldrick

24 Feb 2016 - 1:58 PM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2016 - 2:03 PM

The Sydney Morning Herald's editor in chief, Darren Goodsir, has offered an apology to the participants of the 1978 gay rights march, recognised as the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, for printing the names, addresses and professions of those arrested during the protest.

Homosexuality was illegal in New South Wales at the time of the march and many of those who had their identities published lost their jobs and had their sexuality exposed to their families as a result.

The apology comes the day before the NSW Legislative Assembly's formal apology for the ill-treatment of march participants, known as the ‘78ers’, on Thursday. The motion is also expected to be introduced to the NSW Legislative Council at a later time.

“In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights," Goodsir said in the statement.

"The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day. We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today. We have made contact with representatives of the 78’ers so we can apologise in person."

The public demonstration and march took place on 24 June, 1978 and saw more than 500 people assemble at Sydney's Taylor Square to call for an end of the criminalisation of "homosexual acts" and discrimination against the gay and lesbian community.

This is not the first time the Sydney Morning Herald has apologied for its coverage of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In 1985, it was forced to run a large retraction - reported as being one of the biggest in the history of Australian newspaper publishing at that time - admitting "very little" of its coverage of that year's parade was correct. 

The original front-page SMH story from 25 February, 1985 claimed people living with HIV were forced to watch the Mardi Gras parade from nearby hotel balconies like "sideshow freaks". 

Why an apology for Mardi Gras '78 is long overdue
One of the participants of the original Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras protest march of 1978 discusses why Thursday's apology by the NSW Parliament is long overdue.