Each year, the Mardi Gras Lifetime Achievement Award is the most prestigious award we bestow. Mardi Gras Lifetime Achievers are those volunteers, activists and community heroes who have been involved and contributed to Mardi Gras in outstanding ways over a considerable period of time.

This year we received over 130 nominations from our community for 2020 Mardi Gras Lifetime Achiever – and one particularly beloved individual received 35 nominations.

This year was her 17th year organising one of the Mardi Gras Parade’s most wonderful floats. She first went to the Mardi Gras Parade back in 2004 to support her then-husband Michael when he came out as gay. She soon realised she could build her own group float, so the following year she led a group of 15 down Oxford Street – and the ever-amazing annual ‘Free, Gay and Happy’ float was born. This year she also created the ‘Evolution Dancers’ float, and she’s helped support many other outstanding floats over the years.

CONGRATULATIONS to our 2020 Mardi Gras Lifetime Achievement Award winner:

Teresa Leggett!

Earlier this year, Teresa Leggett shared her story with the Australian Womens Weekly – it’s worth a read. “I’ll keep doing Mardi Gras as long as there are LGBTQI people still taking their own lives, believing there’s no place for them in this world,” she said. “It’s my love letter to Michael, my best friend, for choosing to come into the house and tell me rather than take his life.”

Here are a few great quotes from many people who nominated Teresa for this award:

“Teresa has been a float coordinator, supporter and LGBTI ally. Her contribution has given hope, love and joy for hundreds. She helped create the FGnHappy Group that now boasts some thousand members across the globe.”

“Teresa is selfless in the work she does and the effort she puts into her group and the community. Her thought is if she can save one life by making them feel they are not alone and they are welcome into the community she has done her job.”

“The Free Gay ‘n’ happy group now has over 1,000 members, offering support and acceptance to everyone. Originally started as knowing her husband needed to come out, she saved his life by the love and support she gave.”

“Teresa also supports the LGBT community year-round through just being friends to everyone –especially during the challenging year of the marriage plebiscite and when our community is faced with persecution and violence. Her work is inspiring and worth celebrating.”

“Teresa will tell you she doesn’t play that big a part and that it is all of us coming together that makes us. Of course a community is more than just one person, but Teresa created and importantly has continued and fostered this community of ours, year after year.”

“Teresa is an amazing ally to our community and continues to fight for and alongside us. It would be amazing if we could recognise her for this with this award.”

“As part of that group I can only emphasise the good energy that was created by her. That group created a safe haven for new people that either have just come out, or just moved into a new city.”

“Free Gay and Happy does more than march in the parade, they are a social group who meets throughout the year and are a support group for their members an all facets of life.”

“She is a queen, a friend, a mentor, a mother and someone who has a very personal and beautiful story.”

“She has dedicated herself to providing the community with a group filled with love and joy. Nobody I know is more worthy of recognition than Teresa.”

“On a personal note – she gave me a sense of belonging, community – and when I emailed her about my experience she responded straight away with love, compassion and acceptance. I promise you she has saved many lives! Including mine. Please – just give her the award she deserves.”

When we phoned Teresa to tell her the good news about her Lifetime Achievement Award, she reacted in her typical modest style:

“Oh! Are you sure? There are sooo many people who do so much! Thank you so much, I am touched and honoured!”

We hope we can all meet up again one day soon. Sadly due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we can’t all be together to give Teresa Leggett her Lifetime Achievement Award in person. In the meantime, we’ll send Teresa her Award in the post ASAP.

From all of us on the Board and Staff of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, thank you so very much Teresa for all that you do each year for the Mardi Gras Parade and for the inclusive, supportive community you’ve built.