With the end of the year fast approaching us, I wanted to reach out with a reflection on how it’s all gone and where we’re going in 2021.
It’s been a crazy year – and certainly an interesting one in which to take the reins of Mardi Gras.
As a community, I think we know a thing or two about adversity, so it really is no surprise that we can steel ourselves in uncertain times and look to the future with optimism; to the promise of better days. Though, perhaps it is because we have each other to lean on in hard times – either way, I have been blown away by the resilience of our community.
WHAT WE ACHIEVED IN 2020
Through the ups and downs, and the trials and challenges, we still found moments to come together regularly and elevate the LGBTQI+ community.
With a theme of ‘What Matters’, we supported over 12,500 people to sashay their way up Oxford Street in the 2020 Mardi Gras Parade. As the incoming CEO of Mardi Gras, I felt like I was looking at it through brand new eyes at the time, even though I’ve been attending them religiously for many years. Seeing how the Parade comes together behind the scenes is just as magical as seeing it on Oxford Street – the dedication, the passion, the love, the long hours spent painting and constructing and all of the stories you hear along the way…
But it didn’t stop there. Despite Covid-19, we did a lot! Here’s a taster:
WorldPride – On 26 June, we signed an agreement for Sydney to host the first ever WorldPride in the Southern Hemisphere, which will come to our shores in 2023.
With Love – To honour the late Queen of Mardi Gras Ron Muncaster, we transformed some of the biggest windows on Oxford Street with some of his amazing creations, as well as gorgeous LGBTQI+ community portraits by Richard Hedger.
CAMPing up the street – On 10 September, it was 50 years to the day that John Ware from the organisation CAMP (the Campaign Against Moral Persecution), came out in the media in a feature aimed at removing the stigma facing homosexuals at the time. This simple, but brave act, was a lightning rod moment for Australia that laid the foundations for our LGBTQI+ communities today. To celebrate, we CAMPed up Oxford Street just a little.
Global Pride – We donated our staff to support Global Pride on 27 June, which featured a staggering three and half hours of Australian and Kiwi content, reaching an audience of over 57 million people in at least 163 countries! If they didn’t know how we did it down-under before, they do now.
Volunteer Awards – While we couldn’t be together, we held an online event to share the stories of the volunteers that have gone above and beyond for Mardi Gras. Congratulations again Joel, Katherine, Edie, Warren, Rick, Kim, Chris, Ron, Ronald, Sharniya, Adrian, Konstantinos, Aiden and Sarah! But also, a big congratulations to our 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Teresa Leggett – the world, our world, is a better place with you in it.
Transgender Day of Remembrance – Each year, this day honours the memory of transgender people that have lost their lives through transphobic violence. We donated to support an online event, curated by Bhenji Ra. If you did miss it, you can watch it on Facebook here.
Going through the archives – we uploaded a tonne of archival footage of the Parade on YouTube; footage that hasn’t been seen for decades. While so much has changed, it’s heartening to see that so much has stayed the same. Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t done so already.
New community partnerships – We signed new agreements with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Business Association, the Australia New Zealand Tongzhi Rainbow Alliance, Rainbow Families, RUOK? and Minus18 to ensure we work more closely into the future, and ensure we are creating opportunities for each other in the best interests of our community.
I’m sure you have heard me say this before – but in 2020, we conducted the largest survey of our members and the community – asking them what they valued about Mardi Gras and what they wanted to see more of in the years ahead. This survey has really set the direction of where we want to go in 2021, as we look to rise again beyond the turbulent uncertain times of 2020.
Based on the feedback we received, we will become an organisation that is more relevant to our community year-round, not just in March. While the festival will always be what we’re known for, we know we can do so much more with such a passionate community behind us and the will to keep agitating for equality for LGBTQI+ people in all corners of our society.
Some of the things you can expect from us in 2021:
More events, more celebrations and more get-togethers – you told us you wanted more, and that’s precisely what we’re planning. We’re still working through what that look like, but I’m excited to let you know that plans are well underway, and I hope to be able to share them with you early next year.
A refreshed Police Accord – the NSW Police gave us the green light just last month to publish the SGLMG-NSW Police Accord. Work is underway to update the Accord and we are putting a specific emphasis on our First Nations people and LGBTQI+ identifying people of colour, transgender and gender diverse people, to speak directly with the NSW Police and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on the challenges they feel are yet to be overcome at our events and how we can address those challenges together. I will have more to say on this soon.
Express Yourself – Recently, we launched Express Yourself, a collaboration between ourselves and APRA AMCOS to support emerging queer talent. Express Yourself is a series of three showcases that will see emerging LGBTQI+ artists perform alongside headliners to a room of heavyweights and the general public, with the winners performing at Mardi Gras. Congratulations to our first two winners, rapper JamarzOnMarz and rising Canberran star Aya Yves. The next showcase will take place in January.
And of course, the 2021 Mardi Gras parade and festival…
MARDI GRAS 2021
Currently, the team at SGLMG HQ are knee-deep in parade planning.
After such a difficult year, there could be no more apt a theme, Rise.
In light of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, we are pleased to announce that the Sydney Cricket Ground can now operate a full capacity. This means that the 2021 Mardi Gras Parade will welcome up to 46,000 people, double what was previously permitted. Tickets will go on sale on Wednesday 9 December at 2pm via our website.
We have also doubled our free ticket offering for community members who are feeling the financial impacts of Covid-19, now giving away 2,000 free tickets to ensure the parade is as accessible as possible. We are excited to announce that entries for the hardship tickets are now open and will be done so via a ballot and 1000 people randomly drawn which receive 2 tickets to attend the Parade.
A lot of hard work is going into the planning, and I promise that it will be as spectacular and entertaining in its design as in previous years.
THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS
The team have been doing some number crunching in the lead up to the end of the year, and I thought I would share a few interesting stats about our partners.
Since 2018, ANZ has given away $200,000 in grants to support LGBTQI projects across Australia.
Since 2016, our partners have contributed a staggering $1,042,000 in community grants and festival support.
The recipients of the ANZ community grants program were recently announced and in case you missed it, have a look at how the 11 not-for-profit organisations and individuals will use the funding for a wide range of projects that will positively impact our communities.
We are thankful for the support our partners provide, particularly in the donations they give to support our community at the grassroots.
As you may know, in November we sent out a draft of our Ethical Charter to get your feedback on the shape it is raking. We received so much positive feedback, as well as a few things for us to think further on.
The majority – over 75% – are in favour of the Charter, with many saying the principles are strong and that it is reassuring to see Mardi Gras putting principles first in all of its decision-making. We couldn’t agree more and that’s precisely what we want to do now and into the future.
We still have a bit of work left to do in finalising and tidying up the Charter but are hoping we can release soon.
I want to take this final opportunity to thank the incredible Mardi Gras team who have worked so hard to keep our organisation strong and united during these dark days.
They have shown great determination to find solutions despite all the setbacks and for that I am eternally grateful.
HAVE A FABULOUS FESTIVE SEASON
2020 has been a tough year. While I hope 2021 will be a better year for all us, I know for some the impacts of 2020 will linger well into the new year. Please don’t forget that if you need it, there is always someone to talk to – friends, family and any one of the amazing services at BeyondBlue (1300 22 4636) and Lifeline (13 11 14).
Otherwise, I hope you all have an opportunity to have some time off over the holiday period. Whether you’re spending it at home, with friends or family or whether you’re planning to take a break from the world altogether and get some peace and quiet – I hope you find what you need over the holidays.
Chief Executive Officer