For the first time ever, the University of Sydney will join the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade with its own float.
Australia's first university will help celebrate diversity with a float constructed from rainbow-coloured organza in the shape of the iconic Quadrangle.
The float was proposed by students and staff at the University's Ally Network, a body launched in 2015 which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) students and staff.
Second-year Arts/Social Work student Andrea Zephyr said she was excited by the positive response to the University's float, with all 75 parade walker positions already filled by supporters from the student and staff community.
"I'm just floored at the level of commitment that people have towards these issues," said Andrea, a member of the Ally Network's steering committee.
"The University has committed not only to solving the problems that students are facing and removing these barriers, but also to being very open and proud about what we're doing."
Staff member Mark Smith from the University Secretariat will perform atop the float as an ambassador for the University's LGBTIQ community in the persona of 'Jacky Randa', cheekily named after the University's famous Jacaranda tree.
When asked about her costume, Jacky Randa was tight-lipped.
"Darling, if I told you I would have to kill you, it must remain a surprise," she said.
"When the University hired me as a University Ambassador to the LGBTIQ community and Mardi Gras, the first thing I did was call my good friend and godmother Donatella [Versace] and tell her to get out the Singer and sequins and start getting creative."
Under the banner 'Camp-Us', 75 members of the University of Sydney community will march in the parade on Saturday 5 March, including Provost Professor Stephen Garton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison and Vice-Principal (Operations) Sara Watts.
"Our first-ever Mardi Gras float is an important symbolic gesture showing the world that we celebrate the rich diversity of our university community," said Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence.
"From the beginning, the University's founding principles were guided by a vision of inclusion: an element that remains integral to our ongoing success as highlighted in our 2016-20 Strategic Plan.
"I think the float will drive home the importance of creating a welcoming environment for all students and staff irrespective of background, sexual orientation or gender identity.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our talented and vibrant students and staff, whose insights and contributions make us a stronger university."
Students and staff will have the chance to take part in Mardi Gras at O-Week by writing a personal message of support onto purple leaves, which will decorate the University's float.
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