Category: Mardi Gras at Carriageworks

Activists Show & Tell: How to Change the World Panel + Q&A with 78er Julie McCrossin

Activists Show & Tell: How to Change the World Panel + Q&A with 78er Julie McCrossin
Hosted by Julie McCrossin, in conversation with activists Betty Hounslow, Teddy Cook, Sally Rugg and Imam Nur Warsame. In a special panel for the 40th anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, journalist and 78er Julie McCrossin takes a look at LGBTQI activism in Australia from radical liberation and protest in the 70s to the fights we’re fighting today. Julie will be joined in conversation by a number of activists sharing their stories and photos, talking about the issues that matter the most to them and the ways in which they’re changing and have already changed the political landscape of Australia

Change for All? Feminism and the LGBTIQ Movement

Change for All? Feminism and the LGBTIQ Movement
Moderated by Sarah Maddison, with panelists Robyn Laverack, Nayuka Gorrie, and Anna Hush This panel will explore the role of women and feminist politics in building the LGBTIQ rights movement in Australia today. The discussion will bring together the voices of some very different experiences in these struggles, including Mardi Gras pioneer Robyn Laverack; Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman and queer writer Nayuka Gorrie; and young feminist campaigner Anna Hush, together in conversation with University of Melbourne political scientist Sarah Maddison. From the gay liberation movement to the queer politics of today, this panel examines the intersections of feminism, queer, trans*, race, age and Indigenous sovereignty, taking up the most pressing questions of how we can do better as a movement that is committed to justice and equality for all.

Trans Stories - 40 Years

Trans Stories - 40 Years

From struggles and sequins to love and life.

In this unforgettable Queer Thinking co-presentation with Trans Sydney Pride a diverse range of transgender people will share their personal truth and inner world in an evening of storytelling.

With speakers traversing the four decades of Mardi Gras, hear anecdotes from the hilarious to the heartbreaking that explore the community’s history and its unique perception of the world.

Learn about the glamour, the battles, the pain, the resilience, the love. Relate to their aspirations for success, family and belonging and be moved and inspired by their advocacy and ability to stand proud and claim their place in the world.

Trans Stories Speakers include:

Mama Alto, AJ Brown, Karen Chant, Chrissy Doyle, Lisa Freshwater, Peta Friend, Katherine Maver, Kaya Wilson and Colleen Windsor

Directed by Lisa Freshwater

Conceived and Produced by Peta Friend for Trans Sydney Pride

This one-off performance will run for approx. 2 hours 15 mins with an interval.

Meet the storytellers:

Karen Chant

Karen Chant

Karen is a true pioneer and living legend in the history of Sydney drag.  At the very young age of 15 Karen decided she would pursue a feminine lifestyle, being drawn into the glamorous world of fashion and the catwalk. Karen was hired by June Millinery in Sydney to create her style of ladies headdress, and being the first male milliner in Australia drew enormous publicity - from there her star status began. 

In the early 1960s Karen debuted as the compare of the first all-male revue in Australia, The Jewel Box coffee shop in Kings Cross. What followed was an extraordinary career that saw Karen perform at arguably every historical venue of the last century: The Purple Onion 62, Les Girls 63, Ivy’s Birdcage 67 and her own club Karen’s Kastle 68.

Karen was a big star, who throughout the 70s headlined (along with Rose Jackson) the most well-known of gay showrooms Capriccio’s, also known as International Vanities. These excellent production shows are now the source of fond memories for all who visited.

Karen went on to make guest appearances at the Balmain Town Hall hotel and Polly’s Follies at both the Albury Hotel and Stonewall. For the past 40 years Karen has been performing for The Pollys Club, the longest running gay social club in Australia, and now at 86 years old occasionally performs for charity at The Venue in Pattaya, Thailand donating her time for the street kids of Pattaya.

Katherine Maver

Katherine Maver 

Katherine is an experienced Senior Project Manager, who is a member of the Complex Programme Management practice within IBM. She is highly respected within IBM as a person who is driven and can deliver projects without the compromise of quality.

Katherine leads the A/NZ IBM’s Employee Alliance for LGBTI Empowerment, otherwise known as EAGLE. This is a Business Resource Group for LGBTI employees and their allies at IBM.  The objective is to promote a safe and open working environment for our members and all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  The aim is to foster a strong sense of community within IBM and to facilitate networking, mentoring and ongoing education.

As a Transgender woman, Katherine uses her standing in the corporate world to influence, to effect change and continue the fight of equality in the workplace.

Kaya Wilson

Kaya Wilson

Kaya is both a scientist and a writer, studying the impact of tsunami on Australian coastlines and writing about all things queer and wonderful. He is part English, part African and wholly Australian. Kaya tells stories because that is how we share our humanity and the humanity of trans people is something we can't forget. He is a visible and out trans man who wants to make things better for our community and entertain you along the way.

Colleen Windsor

Colleen Windsor

It seems little known now, that way back in the late 1970s our little part of the world here in Sydney experienced a phenomenon with the existence of a subculture of transgender women in such large numbers that remains unexplainable.

I was an active participant of this subculture and as a Les Girls showgirl I worked hard doing three shows, six nights a week, entertaining locals and tourists. We were seen as freaks on the one hand and as the most beautiful boys in the world on the other. But in Kings Cross, along with the strippers, the callgirls and other associated misfits we were at the heart of Sydney’s then exciting nightlife.

These days as a writer, I tell the stories of Sydney’s LGBTI history, Gay Sydney and my memories of Kings Cross – I love to share the connection of the past and the present.

Peta Friend

Peta Friend

Peta is a trans advocate, public speaker and founder of Trans Sydney Pride (TSP), Sydney’s larges social group for transgender and non-binary people, and it’s associated group Trans Sydney Pride Family, Friends and Allies.

She was born in 1961, raised in Sydney and transitioned male to female in 2000.

Peta has spoken at many corporate events including the Macquarie Bank, Goldman Saks and The Attorney Generals Department and most recently at Sydney’s largest rally for Marriage Equality to an audience of thirty thousand.
Trans Sydney Pride has produced two very successful events as part of the Pride Festival; Transitioning and Career Success in 2016 and Trans Stories, A Celebration in 2017.
Peta is a Skin Therapist with a career spanning over 30 years and the owner and operator of Will and Peta Skin Clinic.

Lisa Freashwater and AJ Brown

Lisa Freshwater and AJ Brown

AJ Brown is a proud transman, trans activist, landscape designer and artist. He was born in Derbyshire in the UK in 1967. He’s a qualified horticulturalist, structural landscaper, landscape designer and director of Evolve Garden Concepts.

After medically transitioning FTM in 2015 AJ turned his focus to trans activism and is an admin for the online groups Trans Sydney Pride (TSP), TSP Family, Friends and Allies, Trans Melbourne Pride and Transgender International. He’s spoken in TSP’s Trans Stories and modelled for the Aurora foundations [STYLE] aGender.

Lisa is a theatre director and producer and co-founder of The Theatre Division. Currently TTD are producing the national tour of Miracle City which opened at Sydney Opera House in October 2017 and Thai-riffic! which opened this year and will tour nationally in 2019.  In 2014 TTD produced and Lisa directed the critically acclaimed and award winning production of Ruthless! The Musical at The Seymour Centre.

Lisa and AJ have been together for thirteen years, eleven of those years in a same sex relationship. They have a sixteen-year-old son.

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Chrissy Doyle

Chrissy Doyle is a 34-year-old trans woman who grew up in Wollongong. Chrissy began her transition at 31 and works as a personal assistant for The Theatre Division in Sydney.  She is very family oriented and loves spending time with her friends and lives with her amazing partner Ray. Chrissy has told her story of life and love for Trans Sydney Pride’s Trans Stories on previous occasions - with not a dry eye in the house! 

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Mama Alto

Mama Alto is a gender transcendent diva, cabaret artiste, jazz singer & community activist.

She is a non-binary trans femme person of colour who works with the radical potential of storytelling, strength in softness & power in vulnerability. Fierce, femme & fabulous, she has been lauded as “divine” (Havana Tribune, Cuba), “near flawless” (The Age), and “a knockout” (The Herald Sun). She fascinates audiences with “an idiosyncratic mix of statuesque fragility” (The Music) and is described as “transcendent” (Stage Whispers), “breathtaking” (ArtsHub), “hypnotically beautiful, elegant & mysterious” (Adelaide Advertiser) & “bewitching” (SameSame). Drawing on legacies of vintage torch singers & her own identity as a queer person of colour, Mama Alto’s vocal & visual aesthetic transcend gender, disrupting & discomforting societal constructions of dichotomous boundaries. By embracing perceived difference she reclaims narratives of othering, defies the normative & rejoices in the sublime.  

Queer Refugees: Building the Bridges and Bridging the Gaps

Queer Refugees: Building the Bridges and Bridging the Gaps
Moderated by Tina Dixson, with panelists Roj Amedi, Kathryn Clark, Randa Kattan, and Renee Dixson. With many countries in the world criminalising homosexuality, LGBTIQ people around the world are forced to flee for their lives. The 1951 Refugee Convention enables them to seek asylum when they are facing persecution on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, international protection mechanisms do not guarantee an easy pathway to safety.

The ‘Transgressive’ Body: A Fucking Protest

The ‘Transgressive’ Body: A Fucking Protest
Moderated by Dino Dimitriadis, with panelists Dai Aoki, Daniel Monks, and Zahra Stardust. ‘Transgressive’ sexual bodies are often the target of stigma, discrimination and regulation. Drawing on experiences with disability, HIV-positivity, Sex Work and Queer Porn, the panel explores the protest of fucking and how body- and sex-positivity advance understanding and advocacy in our communities.

Activism and Radicalism from the AIDS Crisis to Today

Activism and Radicalism from the AIDS Crisis to Today
Conversations inspired by the stories told in the film BPM by Robin Campillo Moderated by Nell Schofield, with panelists Phillipe Mangeot, Maxime Forest, Bridget Haire and Lyle Chan, and musical performance by the Acacia Quartet. When the AIDS crisis hit, LGBTQI communities around the world were changed forever. Groups like ActUp! mobilized themselves with radical tactics to fight for our lives against hostile attitudes and governments.

Queer Thinking

Queer Thinking
Leading thinkers and thought provocateurs, both national and international, from all walks of LGBTQI life will take to the stage for two exhilarating days of illuminating ideas, featuring queer writers, community leaders, panel discussions, talks, debate and personal stories. With a focus on social justice, Queer Thinking in 2018 will look back over the 40 years of Mardi Gras, from its early revolutionary beginnings through to its evolution to becoming one of the leading LGBTQI celebrations in the world. Queer Thinking features two days of seven panels with over thirty speakers sharing their thoughts and stories.

Black Point

Black Point

Koori Gras present a community forum with dinner and drinks for local and interstate guests to discuss relevant issues and challenges for First Peoples’ communities.

Sissy Ball

Sissy Ball

SISSY BALL is SOLD OUT! Thanks to everyone who booked! See you at Carriageworks on Saturday 24 February!


For one night only, clubbers will be transported to a dancefloor born from the living history of New York’s underground Ballroom scene.

Expressions of identity become the focal point as bodies collide in the ultimate Vogue throwdown of style, precision, and attitude in a showcase set to transfix.

In true Vogue style, extravagance on the runway will be met with a Ballroom soundtrack that will weave through disco, house, bounce, pop, performance and much more.

Curated by local interdisciplinary artist and club icon Bhenji Ra, this premier event at Carriageworks is sure to be a festival highlight.







Registration for competitors is now open for Sissy Ball 2018, presented by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Red Bull Music! Please email your name, number and the category/categories you wish to enter to Due to capacity, we have a limit on how many walkers we can allow for each category. Please register by Wednesday 21st February to avoid disappointment.


‘I’m pretty, I’m cute, I’m popular to boot!’ Schools back in, ladies! So you better bring it like the Craft! Points for those who bring it with a prop, every schoolgirl needs some books and a late pass! Don’t forget your high school sweetheart!


She’s beat for the goddess! Flawless on every angle! Catch these cheekbones! Catch this HIGHLIGHT! Don’t let my wing cut you! This face is an evening beat set to last you the entire night, so give us glam!


Bring whatever look you want, just make sure your hands stand out! The hands say everything so tell us your story and don’t you dare start cat walking!


Its time to call on the ancestors to get your 10s! Let us know where your from, what island, clan or nation is yours! Bring it with a traditional look or a hybrid twist! Whatever best describes your bloodline!  It’s a moment to show pride and strength, so head up and walk! Australian flags are an automatic chop!!


I may be bad but I’m perfectly good with it! Body-ody-ody, give us BODY! It’s time to define what sexy is for you!  Tonight it’s all about your body, your rules! So bring it in any form, flesh tone or size and let us know why you are the Sissy Ball Sex Siren! Points for those who bring it in latex look!


Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the cuntiest of them all? To win grand prize and reign supreme you need a look that’s shines and elements all so clean! Bring it with a metallic effect, gold, silver, sequin! Its time to put on a show so blind these hoes with your reflection and slay your elements to win! Lets GO!

The term “Sissy”
"The term “Sissy” is used amongst Asian and Pacific queer communities as a term of endearment and sisterhood. The reason why I chose this is because it’s definitely a term widely used amongst the younger generation of queer people of colour and there’s a global understanding of reclaiming it as a positive affirmation opposed to its slur history” Bhenji Ra

Black Nulla Workshops

Black Nulla Workshops

A series of creative development workshops for First Peoples queer performers, facilitated by Black Foot (Alberta Canada), performance artist Cherish Blood and local guest artists. Workshop participants will be given the opportunity to perform as part of the Black Nulla Cabaret; a First Peoples’ queer performance event with local, national and international guest artists.


Black Nulla Cabaret

Black Nulla Cabaret

Dance the night away and enjoy the rich diversity of queer performances by leading local, national and international guests, plus the Black Nulla workshop participants and your favourite drag artists and DJs.

Speakers Platform

Speakers Platform

An international panel of influential thinkers and artists come together to discuss queer performance from First Peoples’ perspectives.
Dr Sandy O’Sullivan: Associate Professor of Creative Industries at University of the Sunshine Coast,
Jacob Boehme: Creative Director of Yirramboi First Nations Art Festival and creator and performer of Blood on the Dancefloor (Sydney Festival)
Cherish Violet Blood (Alberta Canada),  Black Foot performance artist: Cherish Violet Blood is an actor, storyteller, natural comedian, vocalist and activist from the Blood Reserve, Alberta. A graduate of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Toronto, she trained with Micah Barnes, Vocal Intensive, Banff Centre and enjoys traditional hand drumming and contemporary singing. Blood has performed across North America with Material Witness, Spiderwoman Theatre, The Red House in Syracuse, NY; Making Treaty 7 by Blake Brooker and Michelle Thrush, Calgary; and Maria Gets A New Life by Cliff Cardinal. (

Brian Fuata- Pacifica performance artist: Brian Fuata is a Samoan writer and performance maker born in Wellington, New Zealand and works and lives in Sydney. Alongside his solo practice, he is part of the duo Wrong Solo with Agatha Gothe-Snape. Fuata has performed internationally and nationally, such as at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2017), Performa, New York (2015); Carriageworks, Sydney (2015); The Poetry Project, New York (2015); UnionDocs, New York (2015); Chisenhale Gallery, London (2015); Carriageworks, Sydney (2015); Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2013); and Artspace, Sydney (2011). ( )