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The NSW government has apologised to the members of the group of gay and lesbian people who marched in protest of homosexual criminalisation in 1978, which started Australia's LGBTQI equality movement.

Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith, who introduced the apology motion to the parliament, said many 78ers had lived a life of hurt and pain, and many had taken their own lives.

He said the apology was for all of them.

It follows an apology from The Sydney Morning Herald for publishing the names, addresses and occupations of many activists involved.

Original member Gary Schliemann said to waiting press that the government's apology would never heal the pain and brutality people had suffered, but it was important.

Many of the demonstrators were subjected to ill-treatment of what Mr Schliemann described as “institutionalised police brutality”.

But he said it was encouraging to see a “cross parliamentary truce” in the delivery of today’s apology.

Mr Schliemann said it was touching to see how moved politicians were during the apology, “at a human level”.

He was surprised at how “genuinely appreciative” many politicians were for the leadership the gay community, at a grassroots level, had shown over the years.

“And it’s very sweet to see that kind of acknowledgement – it was a generous acknowledgement,” Mr Schliemann said.

He said he always believed this day would come, but was “absolutely not expecting it to take this long - 38 years”.