I was moved to tears upon hearing that Scott Johnson's murderer was found guilty on Thursday. The verdict ended Sydney's longest running unsolved gay hate crime and has provided much closure to the grieving Johnson family.
In 1988 a fisherman came across the body of PhD mathematics student at the bottom of a cliff at Manly's North Head.
Now, just over 33 years later after his death, the case that "couldn't be solved" finally has with the confession of the murder by Scott White.
This confession has renewed community frustration in police handling of Scott Johnson's case and as well as the 40 years of unsolved gay hate crimes alongside it.
Indeed NSW Police have been under some scrutiny during the course of the campaign to find out what really happened to Scott Johnson.
The campaign identified early on that the decision by NSW Police to rule the cause of death of Scott Johnson was due to suicide was premature and ill-conceived.
Many believe this led to the prolonging and hindering of the investigation and what would become Sydney's longest unsolved gay hate crime.
However in 2017, an inquest found Mr Johnson had been the victim of a "gay hate crime" due to new evidence.
A 2019 parliamentary inquiry into gay and transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010, highlighted three other victims of gay hate crimes alongside Scott Johnson - Alan Rosendale, John Russell and Ross Warren - and as many as 80 others, where the police response was inadequate.
Indeed, the findings since then found that there was a "prevailing acceptance of and indifference" to violence against gay men before the mid-1990s, which then led to a failure of justice for victims of hate crimes, like Scott.
The same inquiry, where the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby presented, found that this "legacy" of injustice around gay hate crimes still remained and was keenly felt today.
These "pervasive prejudices" against the LGBTQI community included biased attitudes within the force, as well as continued violence and assault.
At the time, while acknowledging calls - including from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby - for NSW Police to formally apologise to victims of gay hate crimes, the inquiry did not recommend that one be given.
Despite this, the NSW Police Force acknowledged without qualification its acceptance of gay bashings and shocking violence directed towards gay men, and the LGBTIQ community between 1976 and 2000. Crucially, they also acknowledged the likelihood of historical bias, whether in small groups or more widespread across NSW Police, of homophobic and transphobic attitudes which created a culture of injustice.
There is no justification for what happened and in some cases continues to happen.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
It would be an understatement to say that the NSW Police and the LGBTIQ community have had a strained relationship.
Today with the news of Scott Johnson there has been renewed calls for NSW Police to be banned from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
This would be a step back, not forward.
Mardi Gras has been a place of inclusion, not exclusion. Not to mention the many LGBTQI police officers who want to march under their uniform.
Visibility, transparency, community integration and accountability are essential when it comes to a successful NSW Police force. In that, lies the justification for their presence in the parade.
In recent years, NSW Police have progressed in their approach to community. The LGBTIQ community has an improved, strong and inclusive relationship, but we know it can always be stronger and better.
Scott Johnson was 27 years old, the same age as me. Scott could have been any of us. Scott was one of us. But by virtue of being born at a later time or place, or benefiting from the social and cultural change and maybe some dumb luck, my story has been different.
For any person who has ever felt threatened or at risk, this outcome for Scott Johnson is a good outcome. It has shown that the delays in injustice had a home somewhere in the attitudes and culture of the time. It has put a light on the gay hate crimes of that period, and gives hope to other families and loved ones of other victims of gay hate crimes - Alan Rosendale, John Russell and Ross Warren.
This is a day for justice.
A day for Scott Johnson and his family.
A day that many thought would never come.
My thoughts are with Scott Johnson's loved ones.
Rest well now Scott.
- Jack Whitney is co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.