Celebrating 40 Years of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Read Jenny's Speech in parliament celebrating the fourtieth anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 15:56 :16 ): By leave: I am pleased to speak on behalf of The Greens on this matter of public importance introduced by the member for Blue Mountains. It is always wonderful to speak about Mardi Gras, but it is particularly lovely this year. Not only is this year the fortieth anniversary of Mardi Gras but, as the member for Sydney reminded us—and how could we forget?—it will be the first year that we will be marching down Oxford Street celebrating changes to the laws of this country that have resulted in marriage equality and the end of discrimination that we had had for so long.

The original Mardi Gras marched down Oxford Street towards Hyde Park. Mardi Gras now usually marches the other way, from Hyde Park towards Taylor Square. On the night of the yes vote, I and many thousands of others experienced one of the most incredible things. There was a gathering and a flag raising at Taylor Square. Many of the original 78ers were there, as were many who had been campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] rights long before 1978 and many who continued those struggles in the years that followed. The wonderful people of Reclaim the Streets who usually enjoy celebrating around the inner city of Sydney and Newtown had come together with a number of other groups including Community Action Against Homophobia and the Equality Campaign. Through some careful negotiations with various people, including the NSW Police Force, it was agreed that Oxford Street would be closed. People celebrating in their thousands marched down Oxford Street in the original direction from Taylor Square to Hyde Park, and continued to celebrate in the park that night.

It was wonderful to be able to march down Oxford Street with some of those 78ers and witness them become overwhelmed by the fact that, close to 40 years on, they were marching the same route and chanting the same things. I get goosebumps when I talk about this moment: The 78ers were standing behind the banner at the front of an enormous crowd. I encouraged them to take a minute to stop, turn the banner around and look at the thousands of people who were gathered and marching behind them. They cheered and everybody cheered for them. It felt like there had been genuine change and progress—and we know progress can take a long time. I give a massive shout-out to the many volunteers and the board members of Mardi Gras for all their work. It will be a pleasure to join the parade yet again. I will be dancing up Oxford Street this year.


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