Victoria Police have issued an apology for a gay nightclub raid in which patrons were strip-searched by armed police – 20 years after the event.

On 7 August 1994, armed members of Victoria Police raided the Tasty gay nightclub event in Melbourne. The 463 patrons were detained in the club for seven hours, and strip-searches and cavity-searches were reportedly carried out in full view of the other patrons.

A subsequent legal action against Victoria Police led to damages of over A$10,000,000 being awarded to patrons, and the dropping of drugs-related charges following two arrests. However, it was believed that many victims of the raid did not seek compensation due to fears over being publically outed.

To mark twenty years since the incident, Acting Chief Commissioner Lucinda Nolan met with Victory Police’s newly established LGBTI Community Reference Group, as well as some of the victims of the 1994 raid, to issue the force’s first official apology.

“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 community,” she 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.”

“We know that there is still work to be done,” she continued. “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.”

Shaun Miller, a victim of the raid, told Melbourne Community Voice that the events are still fresh in his memory. He welcomed the apology, saying: “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.”

Activists have suggested the Tasty raid holds a place in Australian LGBT history similar to the place in American LGBT history of the Stonewall Inn raids of 1969, although without the subsequent activist-led rioting.

Last month, a former teacher in the US also received a belated apology for institutional homophobia. Jim Gaylord, who was fired from a school for being gay, received his apology 42 years laters.