In a first from our corporate partners, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ pro bono legal partner of more than 25 years, law and consulting firm MinterEllison, has given its ‘sponsor’ position in the 2024 parade to a community organisation.  

The organisation chosen to take their place is one of MinterEllison’s long term community partners, LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation.  

The Foundation provides an important awareness-raising and advocacy service to ultimately support LGBTQ+ people experiencing domestic violence, especially those who encounter barriers to access in mainstream services. MinterEllison has provided pro bono and other support to the Foundation since its inception in 2020. 

Here, Rob Reed, MinterEllison Special Counsel (Community Investment & Pro Bono) and founder of the Darkness to Daylight run which raises funds for Challenge DV, interviews Ben Bjarnesen, Foundation founder, on how the Foundation hopes to use its 2024 Mardi Gras exposure to elevate its profile and bring awareness to its life saving work. 


Rob: Ben, the Foundation was a natural choice to take MinterEllison’s place on the night of the parade, since we’ve been working together now for some time. How are you and the team feeling about participating? 

Ben: We’re absolutely thrilled to be taking part.  It is such a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the Foundation and our work on a national stage and reach the people who need us the most. It will help us to shine a light on this issue which has remained hidden in our communities for far too long. 

Rob: Domestic violence prevention and support for people experiencing domestic and family violence are core priorities for MinterEllison’s pro bono and community investment program. LGBTQ+ inclusion is a priority for our diversity and inclusion program. Separately, in both of these areas we have seen increasing community recognition and understanding generally. But some might see violence in LGBTQ+ relationships as still a somewhat ‘hidden’ problem. Can you tell us more about that? 

Ben: Sadly, LGBTQ+ people are less likely to identify domestic or family violence in their relationships, less likely to report it to the police or seek support from services, and are far less likely to find support services that meet their specific needs. We are losing too many lives and too many others are suffering in silence. 

We’re a charity comprised of passionate volunteers and we’re desperate to shine a light on domestic and family violence in LGBTQ+ communities. 

Although the research is limited, it indicates that more than 60% of LGBTQ+ people have experienced domestic, family and intimate partner violence. This needs to change.

Rob: So, when you’re marching down Oxford Street, what sort of impact do you hope to have? 

Ben:  I hope being visible helps our communities and our allies understand that domestic and family violence happens far too often in our communities.  I hope it will prompt them to learn more about what healthy relationships look like, or what they can do to help a friend, family member, colleague or even a stranger who might be experiencing domestic, family or intimate partner violence.  

I hope it helps us to advocate for necessary change – in both the visibility of LGBTQ+ people’s experiences and the quality of response they receive when reaching out for support.  

I hope that any LGBTQ+ person watching the parade who is experiencing violence in a personal or      family relationship sees us and knows that they are not alone.  The need to know that they are seen, that they are believed and that there are people and organisations out there who can support them.  

Rob: So this year’s Mardi Gras theme is ‘Our future’. What’s the Foundation’s wish for the future? 

Ben: We want to see a future where everyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality, has access to the right safe, inclusive and equal domestic and family violence support at the right time.  

We’d also love to see a future in which all domestic and family violence prevention stakeholders across Australia and the community more broadly are educated about the existence and impact of domestic and family violence in LGBTQ+ communities.  And ultimately, we want to see an end to family, domestic and sexual violence in our communities.      

Rob: Well, we are so proud to have you as a community partner and we wish you the very best getting your message out there.


Visit the LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation on LinkedIn and on Instagram