Accord Review

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will soon be undertaking a review of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and NSW Police Accord. 

As a part of this process, we will be consulting with our communities to better understand concerns and areas for improvement - which will inform how we approach refreshing the Accord with the NSW Police. 

As these will be in-person consultations, we must wait until the current COVID-19 situation in Sydney becomes more stable. However, if this is something you’re interested in one of these consultations, you can register your interest by emailing reception@mardigrasarts.org.au and we’ll contact you with more information when the time comes. 

This review covers the way Police engage with our communities at Mardi Gras events only. It does not cover how the Police engage with LGBTQI+ communities outside of Mardi Gras events, nor does it cover how they engage with the general population. 

If you’d like to know more about the Accord, the purpose it serves and why we’re reviewing it – keep reading. 

What is the Accord?

The Accord is a memorandum of understanding between Mardi Gras and the NSW Police that exists to ensure all people attending our events feel safe, protected and are treated fairly.  

It allows Mardi Gras to have input into planning for a police presence at each of our events, and it also ensures any policing activity is appropriate to the scale and risk of the event and within a culturally informed framework.

The Accord was designed to build relationships, educate and create a safe space for our communities. In many ways it’s been successful, since it’s inception in 2014, police presence and response to our communities’ needs at our events have improved immeasurably and there have been no reported instances of violence.  

Why do we have one?

Every large-scale event in NSW is required to have a police presence to deal with external threats of terrorism, or any situation that may become unsafe for event attendees. 

This is law, and as the one of the largest gatherings in NSW, Mardi Gras is not exempt from this.  

The Accord recognises that there is a significant history of fear within our community around policing. Therefore, it has provided a platform to work toward cultural change, ensuring police are given the cultural sensitivity training they need and are planning operations in line with the expectations of our community. 

What sort of things are in the current Accord?

Key components of the Accord include:

  • Mardi Gras and the NSW Police will jointly plan to ensure a consistent approach to policing that is appropriate to the scale, risk, cultural sensitivities and visitation outcomes of the Mardi Gras Festival.
  • Police will ensure that policing occurs fairly, equitably and in accordance with appropriate standard operating procedures.
  • Mardi Gras will work to provide cultural sensitivity education and training on working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities.
  • Mardi Gras will continue to assist Police to promote awareness and education that NSW laws regarding alcohol and illegal drug use will be enforced fairly and equitably during the Mardi Gras Festival.

Decency inspections

Mardi Gras is built on the foundation of authentic self-expression – and feeling pride in that expression. Boobs, bums, chaps, tops on, tops off, mesh, leather, rubber, full furry suits – how you choose to express yourself at Mardi Gras is your choice and no one else’s!  

However, by law, genitals must be covered up in public. 

The Accord allows a representative from Mardi Gras to work with a senior police representative to conduct inspections before the Parade to make sure participants follow the law.  

The Mardi Gras and police representative go through this process together, never by themselves. 

This part of the Accord does not give police power to dictate how you express yourself at Parade. Rather, it’s about making sure that if a participant does have to be approached, then they are approached by two trained representatives to ensure that person feels safe and protected. 

Should a person not meet the requisite standard, they are given the opportunity to rectify the issue prior to the start of the parade. 

Just like the rest of the Accord, the ‘Decency Inspections’ section is something we will be looking to refresh. 

Ultimately, the process is about making Mardi Gras a safe place for participants. 

Why are we reviewing the Accord?

The Accord was created in 2014, so it’s time for a review. 

The review gives us the opportunity to hold consultations to get feedback from our communities on what’s working and what may need improvement. It’s our chance to have an open and transparent conversation on policing at Mardi Gras events. 

No other Pride organisation in the world has initiated a review like this so we want to make sure we have a collaborative discussion and involve the community as we set to update the terms of the Accord.

A particular focus for us will be on engaging with 78ers, LGBTQI+ First Nations people, LGBTQI+ people of colour, transgender and gender diverse people.  
This is part of our continued efforts to ensure our communities feel safe at Mardi Gras events. 

What is the consultation process? 

We have appointed an independent research organisation to drive this process for us. Mardi Gras and NSW Police, together with the research agency have had preliminary discussions to agree on the process. 

We’ll be holding consultations sessions with community members to go through the Accord in detail to get opinions/feedback on each section of the current document.  

The sessions will also be an opportunity for us to have a general conversation on policing at Mardi Gras, and what changes the community would like to see happen. 

Given the nature of the topic, the research agency has advised that in-person consultations are best practice, as it creates a better environment for open discussion and discourse. 

The whole process has been developed in line with trauma-informed research principles and in-person consultations also allow us to give the appropriate support to people. 

The research agency and People and Nominations Committee will select participants to ensure there is intersectionality and diversity represented from across our membership and community. For logistical reasons and COVID, the number of people we can include in the consultation process is limited but we will endeavour to include as many as we can.

The feedback collected aims to inform how Mardi Gras and NSW Police could operationally and practically refresh the Accord, in line with the law.  

Openness and transparency 

We are committed to the entire review process and each step being open and transparent so our communities can feel at ease that their views are being represented in the best possible way throughout the entire process. 

You can read the entire Accord here

We are always open to receiving your feedback and should you wish to share your thoughts or have any enquiries, please email reception@mardigrasarts.org.au