As part of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras’ 40th anniversary in 2018, a number of key floats will highlight key-defining moments that have happened throughout Mardi Gras’ 40-year history. One of these 40th anniversary floats will be a remembrance to those that have died of AIDS-related illnesses.

A Brief History

Homosexuality was only legalised in New South Wales in August 1984, and the following 1985 Mardi Gras Festival was held against a backdrop of increasingly hysterical media reporting of HIV/AIDS. There were calls for Mardi Gras to be cancelled, with the Reverend Fred Nile suggesting it be replaced by compulsory public lectures about AIDS. Undeterred, the Parade went ahead bigger than ever before, with the theme ‘Fighting for our Lives’.

Mardi Gras continued to be a political tool to raise awareness in HIV and AIDS during the devastating period of the 1980s and 90s. Despite calls for its cancellation, the parade became a vehicle to promote messages of safe sex and to fight the stigma directed at the gay community.

By 1991, over 1,500 Australians had died from AIDS-related illnesses, and with advances in combination therapies getting results in clinical trials overseas, the year’s Mardi Gras Parade was an urgent call for access to treatment meds. Activists held up placards with messages to the health authorities: “We Can’t Wait”, “We Haven’t Got The Time You’re Taking”, “Red Tape Kills” and “AIDS Drugs Now!”

In 1992 The Parade halted at 10pm to observe a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for the many people in our communities who had died from AIDS-related illness.

The most memorable and moving float at 1999’s Parade was the HIV/AIDS Remembrance, promoting the message ‘ Remember, It’s Not Over’ and carrying a sea of soaring red flags.

Photo: C.Moore Hardy


In 2018 for the 40th anniversary, Mardi Gras is creating an HIV/AIDS remembrance float to remember those family and friends who have died from AIDS-related illness.

UPDATE 21 December 2018: The 2018 HIV/AIDS Remembrance Float is now full. Those who have applied will be contacted shortly.