University community at the 2017 Mardi Gras parade

University of Sydney to help celebrate 40 years of Mardi Gras

6 February 2018
For the third time the University of Sydney will be joining the festivities on Oxford Street to celebrate the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, this year as an official supporter of the event.

The University of Sydney is once again preparing to take to Oxford Street to celebrate the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday 3 March.

This year marks the University’s third year in the parade but the first as an official partner of the festival.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost Professor Stephen Garton will take part in the parade for a third time and is proud the University can support the event in its 40th anniversary year.

“This is an historic anniversary event, and as an institution committed to diversity and inclusion, we are delighted to express that commitment through our partnership with Mardi Gras.

“I look forward to celebrating with staff and students and demonstrating our support for making the University a diverse and welcoming community,” said Professor Garton.

Approximately 80 staff and students will join the float, designed by the University’s Ally Network which supports the University of Sydney's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community.

While the finer details of the float are a tightly held secret, the theme will be Rally. Change. Evolve. to honour 40 years of Mardi Gras, which began as a street festival but turned into a protest on 24 June 1978.

The first Mardi Gras in 1978

Marchers at the 1978 Mardi Gras parade. Image: Sally Colechin

Mark Gillespie, an anthropologist and English for Academic Purposes specialist at the University’s Centre for English Teaching was one of the many who marched on that night 40 years ago.

“At the time in June 1978 I could not see the real significance of that peaceful night time celebration and march that turned into a riot.

“I know I was traumatised and I know I felt an energy and courage I did not know I had when amidst all the mayhem and chaos we stood up to the police and fought back.

“The joy I get now at Mardi Gras time in Sydney is seeing young queer people growing up in a new century where they face far less imposed guilt, shame and stigma than the homophobic Australian society imposed on my generation growing up in the 1960s and 70s.

“It is wonderful that the annual event of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has survived these 40 years and is still going strong.”

For the second year, the University will also take part in Fair Day, Mardi Gras’ free family-friendly carnival on Sunday 18 February in Victoria Park, Camperdown.

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