Craig and Shane fell victim to a brutal hate crime off Oxford Street in 2007. The image of Craig’s shattered face on the cover of the Sydney Star Observer called Sydney’s queer community to action, and as the couple lead the 2008 Mardi Gras Parade, the community was reminded of our continued struggle for safety and acceptance. The hardest 18 months in these young men’s lives are captured in this local production, interwoven with discussions on homophobic violence from Sydney’s queer community, police officers, and Lord Mayor. But at its heart, Holding Hands is Craig and Shane’s story. Amidst endless surgeries, physical and psychological recovery and planning for the future, they discover that even in the worst circumstances, we can all create positive change.
In January 2008 we read a newspaper article about Sydney couple Craig and Shane, who had been holding hands when they were assaulted in the heart of gay Sydney. On the page was an enormous photograph of the bruised and battered face of Craig – it was the first time we had seen an assault victim’s face, and it was shocking. The attack was so brutal that Craig had his jaw reduced to powder, when the attackers stomped on his face. The attackers were so certain that Craig was dead that an hour later, they used his stolen mobile phone to call his mother to inform her ‘We killed your faggot son’.
The story became even more appalling as we read that police told the couple there was nothing they could do. They told Craig and Shane they did not have time to check CCTV footage or trace phone calls made from Craig’s stolen phone, or even talk to the taxi driver who the attackers hailed down after the assault. We couldn’t believe that in an area with a thriving gay community, there was such a lack of support from local police.
Craig and Shane agreed to take part in the film because they wanted to support their community and help other assault victims by sharing their experience. We initially thought that we would only film an account of their assault, but as new developments came to light, their story continued to grow and we ended up documenting Craig and Shane’s recovery over an incredibly emotional and often painful 11 month period.
By standing up for their rights, Craig and Shane became heroes in their community, even being nominated to lead the 2008 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, where a supportive crowd cried out ‘Welcome back!’ Craig and Shane’s story was very significant because their bravery to come forward about their experience ultimately caused positive changes for all assault victims through police reviewing their procedures. Their story shows how we can all create something positive out of even the worst circumstances.