Mardi Gras: From The Cities To The Regions

By Manon O'Neil, Office of Dr Amanda Cohn MLC, Greens NSW Spokesperson for LGBTQIA+ 


Amidst the vibrant colours and the enduring spirit of protest at the heart of Mardi Gras, The Greens proudly took to the streets to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ community and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to shaping a future worth fighting for. From Sydney Mardi Gras, where we championed Equality without Exception, to Wagga Wagga, where we proudly displayed the largest Greens float ever, we embraced visibility and inclusion.

We launched the Mardi Gras season with the news of Fair Day's cancellation due to asbestos contamination of mulch at the venue. Fair Day is a beloved and critical event for the LGBTQIA+ community but rain, hail, or mulch didn't stop the community from coming together for events across the city to celebrate. While we called on the government to step up and relocate the event, the community ignited and creatively organised to ensure the day was celebrated. The Greens participated in multiple events across the city, engaging with the community about critical issues like the need to update the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to include protections for bisexuals, intersex and non-binary people and LGBTQIA+ inclusion in sports. 

The Greens have a rich history of participating in the Mardi Gras Parade, dating back to the late 1980s. One of our members, Ray Goodlass, a proud 78'er, recalls our continuous presence in the parade for over three decades. This long-standing tradition underscores our enduring commitment to supporting and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community.


NSW Greens at Mardi Gras


The Sydney Mardi Gras theme for this year was “Our Future…” and The Greens' interpretation was ‘Let’s Build A Future Worth Fighting For’. We aimed to visually represent our ongoing commitment to LGBTQIA+ rights, highlighting both our efforts in Parliament and grassroots activism within the community through a series of photos of key moments in Australian queer political history. Images we used included protests back in the 1970s, during the legislation of same-sex marriage, the AIDS crisis and images from World Pride and contemporary struggles. Our parade participants held up these blown-up photos with our last participant holding a message stating ‘The Greens are with you whatever comes next’.

Our parade participants included Members of Parliament and Greens activists in the community. We were privileged to have Janet Rice and her partner Anne with us as Janet’s last Mardi Gras as an elected representative. Erin Moroney, former Greens councillor and the first gender-diverse elected representative in NSW participated for the first time.

A week later, we were in Wagga Wagga for the largest Mardi Gras event in regional NSW. LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies from across the Riverina gathered to celebrate pride and unity. With the theme of 'The Biggest Party Ever,' we embraced the opportunity to be visible. 

We organised a bus from Albury to make the 90-minute drive to the Wagga along with organising members from Sydney to attend. The result was the biggest float we have had in Wagga with with our truck adorned in bubbles and greeted by cheers from the enthusiastic crowd as we passed by. 


Wagga Pride Parade


In regional communities, Mardi Gras is about visibility and inclusion. A real highlight was seeing young people out and proud, with pride flags wrapped around their shoulders, and so many people lining the streets to support the parade. Queer people are in our regions just as much as in our cities and seeing Wagga, you wouldn't think differently. 

The Orange Rainbow Festival is next on our calendar. A brand new event, this regional festival is a weekend to celebrate and support LGBTQIA+ young people while fostering inclusion, acceptance and unity within their community. The festival was recently in the spotlight after councillors attempted to cancel the festival in response to far-right threats. However, members of the community filled the chamber and local Greens councillor David Mallard rallied to ensure it’s going ahead. 

As this article is being written, the NSW Parliament is debating a bill to ban conversion practices - a welcome and long overdue reform. NSW has the worst laws in the country for LGBTQIA+ and there is so much more work to do to end the requirement for people to undergo violating and medically unnecessary genital surgery to change their gender on official documents, to update the Anti-Discrimination Act to remove outrageous exemptions for religious organisations including schools, and more.

Mardi Gras reminds us that we have won before and we will win again. It reminds us how far we have come since 1978 and how much more work there is to do. It reminds us to celebrate, dance and use as much bio-glitter as we can. Mardi Gras brings our community together, and I am proud to be part of a party that will continue to work in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ people, whatever comes next.