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The Rainbow and the Blue

  • 04 March 2024
Each year more than 35,000 people go missing in Australia and more than 3000 stay missing for longer than three months. Each year about a third of the nation’s homicides, meaning well over a hundred deaths a year, are related to family or domestic violence. Few of the stories reach the news. In recent weeks, significant media attention has focused first on a missing person in Ballarat and then a couple allegedly murdered in Sydney. Both situations are, regardless of the detail, tragic. A missing wife and mother; a young couple dead. But widespread media focus on incidents like these can play into wider social dynamics. Sometimes such social dimensions are inherent in the initial media interest. At other times, the story goes in directions the media weren’t expecting.

In the case of a double homicide in Sydney, it is alleged that two men, Jesse Baird and Luke Davies, were murdered by a police officer. Using a police gun. Police understand that the alleged murderer, Beau Lamarre-Condon, was previously in a relationship with Baird and so have indicated that they consider this a domestic violence related incident. There is no evidence of a ‘hate crime’ in the manner usually denoted by that term.

Police in New South Wales and elsewhere have been the enforcers of laws – historically based on wide community support – that have been violently oppressive to LGBTIQ+ identifying persons in a manner that has undermined their dignity. There is strong evidence that, beyond the enforcement of such laws, police have at times been discriminatory towards LGBTIQ+ persons. This has been, or at the very least has been perceived to be, so widespread and culturally entrenched that police have not been a source of safety and security for LGBTIQ+ identifying persons but a source of alienation and fear.

History, as we know, is not easily healed. The New South Wales Police Force first marched in the Mardi Gras Parade in 1998. Following the murders of Baird and Davies, community distress led to requests that police not march this year. Negotiations between police and organisers led to a compromise where police will march but not in uniform.

This seems, in some ways, a reasonable compromise. The death of members of the LGBTIQ+ community, allegedly at the hands of a police officer, would reasonably be expected to bring to mind the history described above, and to be felt especially by those who identify with past