Mardi Gras History
On a cold night in Darlinghurst, Sydney in 1978, a small group of protestors formed to contribute to the international Gay Celebrations, the resulting police violence and arrests created a defining night in not only Sydney’s GLBTQI community but Australia’s cultural heritage.
“You could hear them in Darlinghurst police station being beaten up and crying out from pain. The night had gone from nerve-wracking to exhilarating to traumatic all in the space of a few hours. The police attack made us more determined to run Mardi Gras the next year.”
Over the months that followed, more protests and arrests took place - and the actions of the authorities came to be seen as heavy handed. By April 1979 the Parliament of New South Wales repealed the NSW Summary Offences Act legislation that had allowed the arrests to be made. As such that first Mardi Gras march was a major civil rights milestone beyond the gay community. Up to 3,000 people marched in an incident-free parade in 1979.
In 1980 a key new element was introduced – the post-parade party. The face of the modern Mardi Gras we know today was taking shape.
The event began to enjoy extensive media coverage from the mid-80s onwards and the crowds continued to swell, from 200,000 in 1989 to over 500,000 in 1993. Large numbers of interstate and international travellers had started flying in for the event as well, generating an estimated $38 million for the NSW economy.
Throughout the late ‘90s and early part of this century, Mardi Gras continued to grow in tourist and spectator numbers along with an increase in the quality of the events and the scope of the festival. Its themes each year represent the issues of the day and encourage marginalised groups to join a larger family of supporters.
Today, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of Australia’s most famous and well-loved events, bringing thousands of visitors to Sydney to join in the celebrations. It captures the imagination of Australia’s LGBTQI and mainstream communities, taking over the city for weeks on end, culminating in the world-famous Parade: a colourful and dazzling night of pride, celebration and self-expression.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a non-for-profit member-based organisation with deductible gift recipient status. Donate here.
Every Mardi Gras Parade Date Ever, and their themes:
Saturday 24 June 1978 - marking 'International Gay Solidarity Day'
Saturday 30 June 1979 - Power in the Darkness
Saturday 28 June 1980 - Outrageous Gay Mardi Gras - Festive Ball
Saturday 21 March 1981 (postponed from 21 Feb due to torrential rain) - We are the People our Parents Warned us Against
Saturday 27 February 1982 - On Our Way To Freedom
Saturday 26 February 1983 - Our Lives/Our Selves
Saturday 25 February 1984 - We'll Dance If We Want To!
Saturday 23 February 1985 - Fighting for our Lives
Saturday 22 February 1986
Saturday 21 February 1987
Saturday 27 February 1988 - Celebrating a Safe Sex Summer
Saturday 18 February 1989
Saturday 17 February 1990
Saturday 16 February 1991
Saturday 29 February 1992
Saturday 27 February 1993
Saturday 5 March 1994 - We Are Family
Saturday 4 March 1995 - Fairy Tales & Lesbian Legends
Saturday 2 March 1996
Saturday 1 March 1997
Saturday 28 February 1998 - 20 Years of (R)evolution
Saturday 21 February 1999 - Equality in Diversity | Celebrate the Future
Saturday 4 March 2000 - 2000gether
Saturday 3 March 2001 - Out There, Everywhere
Saturday 2 March 2002 - Happy Mardi Gras!
Saturday 1 March 2003 - 25 Years of Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual and Queer Culture
Saturday 6 March 2004 - Metamorphosis
Saturday 5 March 2005 - Our Freedom, Your Freedom
Saturday 4 March 2006 - Dance · Love · Radiate
Saturday 3 March 2007 - Objects of Love
Saturday 1 March 2008 - Brave New Worlds
Saturday 7 March 2009 - Nations United
Saturday 27 February 2010 - History of the World
Saturday 5 March 2011 - Say Something
Saturday 3 March 2012 - Infinite Love
Saturday 2 March 2013 - Generations of Love
Saturday 1 March 2014 - Kaleidoscope
Saturday 7 March 2015 - Passion
Saturday 6 March 2016 - Momentum
Saturday 4 March 2017 - Creating Equality
Saturday 3 March 2018 - 40 Years of Evolution
Saturday 2 March 2019 - Fearless
Saturday 29 February 2020 - WHAT MATTERS