A contingent of First Nations people will again lead the 2019 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade this weekend, highlighting their proud Indigenous history and ongoing fight for equality.
In line with Mardi Gras’s 2019 theme of “Fearless”, the float will be incorporate themes of Visibility, Blak Fearlessness, Resistance and the overarching message “Always was, Always will be, Fearless!”
“The theme highlights the ground-breaking work our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI peers did to pave the way for us today,” spokesperson Terrence Murphy said.
“We pay homage to those who were Fearless in a time when it was neither popular nor fashionable to do so.”
Last year marked the 30th anniversary of Indigenous participation in Mardi Gras. It’s now tradition for the First Nations float to lead the parade, but the float’s 1988 debut was delegated a position later in the procession.
The float, lead by Aboriginal South Sea Islander Malcolm Cole, was named “The Aboriginal Boat” and was a spoof re-enactment of the arrival of the First Fleet.
The Sydney Morning Herald described the float at the time as featuring “the tall, striking figure of dancer, Malcolm Cole, dressed as Captain Cook with a black Sir Joseph Banks and two black sailors beside him in a boat pulled by a white man.”
The float served as a political statement about Australia’s 1988 bicentennial celebrations, which organisers say failed to acknowledge over 40 thousand years of Indigenous history.
“It is enough trouble being black, let alone gay,” Cole told the Herald in 1988.
“That is why I am determined to put this float in the Mardi Gras.”
To learn more about the participation of First Nations people’s entries in the Sydney Mardi Gras, an interactive timeline was created last year and can be viewed online here. The timeline contains photographs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died.
The 41st annual Sydney Mardi Gras festivities kicked off on Febuary 15, and will culminate in the annual parade and party on Saturday, March 2.
A live stream of 2019 Mardi Gras parade will be available online on SBS On Demand and the SBS Twitter account on the Saturday.
If you’re not travelling to Sydney for this year’s Mardi Gras parade, you’re invited to join in the celebrations at Brisbane’s Sportsman Hotel. Entry is free all night and a live stream of this year’s parade on the big screen from 6pm.
The next day, the SBS telecast of the parade with commentary from Joel Creasey, Nerelda Jacobs, Zoe Coombs Marr and Patrick Abboud will screen on Sunday, March 3 from 8:35pm.