Tasty raids: the story, the apology
Twenty years have passed since the August night in 1994 that police strip-searched more than 450 people at a Melbourne gay club. Now, Victoria Police has offered an apology to those affected.PT2M13S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3d5r3 620 349 August 5, 2014
Victoria Police has apologised for the "extreme" and "disturbing" 1994 Tasty raid in which more than 450 patrons at a Melbourne gay club were strip-searched.
Acting Chief Commissioner Lucinda Nolan apologised on behalf of the force on Monday night to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the raid this week.
The police raid at Tasty Nightclub in 1994.
"The events that took place that night caused distress to people and had a significant impact on the relationship between Victoria Police and the wider LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex] community," Acting Commissioner Nolan said.
"It is therefore appropriate we extend a sincere apology to the community members who were affected by the events on that night and also to the broader LGBTI community for the impact this event has had on our relationship over the past two decades."
The apology took place during a meeting at the Victoria Police Museum with the police's newly established LGBTI community reference group.
Gary Singer led a class action over the Tasty raid that cost Victoria $6 million. Photo: Penny Stephens
It was the morning of August 7, 1994, when the music died, the lights went on and, according to witnesses, police ordered the "faggots" to put their hands up.
The victims were not criminals, but clubbers targeted during a questionable drug raid.
The 463 patrons in Tasty Nightclub in Flinders Lane were subjected to a terrifying and humiliating strip search.
It was a political nightmare for Victoria Police and premier Jeff Kennett, who denounced the raid as "extreme" and "disturbing".
A successful class action by about 250 patrons for false imprisonment and assault cost the state $6 million.
The class action was led by lawyer and former Melbourne deputy lord mayor Gary Singer, who was at the nightclub when 40 police burst through the doors.
He was one of first to receive the apology at the private function on Monday night.
"It's really exciting. I think it's a great leap forward when the Chief Commissioner comes out and apologises," Mr Singer said.
"It's never too late and 20 years is not a long time when it comes to governments or bureaucracies. This is the beginning of a new chapter and we are seeing the police force recognise they need to deal fairly with various sections of the community."
Mr Singer led the class action on behalf of Sally Gordon, who was awarded $10,000. Other cases were settled for the same amount.
"We wind the clock back 20 years and they [Victoria Police] certainly weren't doing anything then. We fought that case and it was a very difficult case to fight. It went on for six or seven weeks and every police witness gave a version of events that simply wasn't true."
Shaun Miller was also there during the raid.
"Even though it was 20 years ago, I still remember the lights going on," he told LGBTI publication Melbourne Community Voice.
"I remember what the police said, I remember being strip-searched - the whole thing.
"In my view, the police apology is genuine and sincere and a wonderful milestone in the road to improving the relationship between the LGBTI community and the Victoria Police."
Another vocal victim was pyjama king Peter Alexander: "The fact that innocent people in their hundreds were stripped and humiliated still haunts me and reminds me that we have to keep check on people in authority."
Acting Commissioner Nolan said while the force has made "great strides" in the recognition and celebration of gender and sexual diversity, there was "still work to be done".
"We know there is under-reporting of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic incidents and offences. We understand that in order for these reporting rates to increase, the LGBTI community needs to have confidence that their reports will be taken seriously and their complaints will be treated respectfully.
"We are committed to ensuring that every LGBTI Victorian has a positive experience with our organisation, whether they approach us for help, see us in the street, or indeed work within our ranks or aspire to do so."
With Suzanne Carbone