The LGBT pride flag flying at the University of Sydney Quadrangle.

From protest to party: conference honours 40 years of Mardi Gras

20 June 2018
An international academic conference commemorating 40 years of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will be held at the University of Sydney next week.

On the anniversary of the 1978 rally and protest that evolved into Sydney's world-famous Mardi Gras, members of the 78ers Collective, alongside leading LGBTIQ scholars and community leaders, will come together to celebrate the evolving purpose, identity and influence of Mardi Gras.

The University of Sydney’s two-day Pride of Place conference (Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 June) will explore themes of intergenerational lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer experience, and celebrate the evolving purpose, identity and influence of Mardi Gras within the LGBTIQ community.

“In our current celebratory – and sometimes complacent – moment as marriage equality is secured in Australia, it is more important than ever to remember that only 40 years ago an impromptu protest led to the first ever Mardi Gras event, putting the rights of a broadly understood coalition of sexual minorities firmly on the political agenda,” said Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Annamarie Jagose.

“With this conference, it is a privilege to honour the 78ers and in their names to imagine future projects of erotic justice in Australia.”

Associate Professor Kane Race, from the University’s Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, who will be speaking at the conference, added: “The history and future of LGBTIQ and queer politics, social mobilisation and cultural change in Australia is unthinkable without some reference to the culture and history of Mardi Gras.

“At once party, protest, and community celebration, this vibrant and dynamic, event – with what one past president of Mardi Gras referred to as its ‘magical and volatile formula’ – has generated a uniquely festive and irreverent approach to political mobilisation, cultural activism and the social transformation around sex and gender politics, social justice, cultural diversity, social inclusion and community health in Australia and beyond.

“Pride of Place offers a unique opportunity to learn from the past and envision innovative futures for sex and gender politics, social diversity and counterpublic health in our times.”

The relationship between LGBTIQ politics and Indigenous Australians, as well as multi-ethnic communities, will be a focus of conference discussion.

Other sessions will examine the impact of Mardi Gras and LGBTIQ communities on Australia’s working culture, sporting identity, health systems, religious landscape and more.

Guest speakers include:

  • Members of the 78ers Collective – the people who participated in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
  • Terese Casu, CEO, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
  • Benjamin Law, writer of the critically acclaimed The Family Law

Visit the website for full speaker line-up and conference schedule.

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Media and PR Adviser (Humanities)

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