On the 40th anniversary of the recently held Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, ABC TV screened Riot, a landmark film which documents the very first such parade – held on Saturday 24th June 1978 at 10pm.
This parade, in which participants were brutally beaten by the police, was a catalyst for the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality in NSW.
While there is still much work to do to ensure full equality for the LGBTQI community, the parade, and other advocacy, has been instrumental in driving other positive legislative changes and changing public attitudes towards the LGBTQI community.
Author Jeremy Fisher, who was a longstanding Director on the Copyright Agency’s Board and an Executive Director of the ASA, was part of the group that advocated for gay and lesbian rights and he was portrayed in the series by actor Will McDonald.
Jeremy says that what he most vividly recalls from that time was “…the intolerance towards gay people. We were considered sick and criminal. The Master of the College from which I was expelled told me I was possessed by the devil. It was a time of great alienation. Fortunately, my parents offered me unconditional love and, with them by my side, I came through it. Distressing as it has been, my partner and I both agreed to open our lives up to the public through Riot in the hope that the events portrayed will make it easier for people to express a minority sexuality.”
Jeremy worked with Riot’s writers Greg Waters and Carrie Anderson, and producer Louise Smith, on the movie to help fill out the narrative and also attended some of the shoots. He says, “The script is original and I think Greg did a great job patching a moving storyline together from such disparate and frayed threads.”
Copyright Agency CEO, Adam Suckling, says “We salute Jeremy and all the other 78ers for their brave stand, and the huge contribution each of them has made to helping make Australia a better and more tolerant place.”