From the ashes of a ruined march, Sydney’s Mardi Gras rose up like a fiery Phoenix.
Without the perseverance and dedication of Sydney’s LGBTQI community, we wouldn’t have the fabulous celebration that we all know and love.
In 1978, a small group of protestors organised a rally alongside International Gay Solidarity Day to commemorate the Stonewall riots in the United States.
Organisers were granted permission for the march, but it was unexpectedly revoked. The resulting violence protests were met with police violence and arrests.
The Sydney Morning Herald published the names, occupations and addresses of all those arrested. Some who were publicly outed lost their jobs, housing and family ties. The law and order community became a significant adversary to LGBTQI people and progress.
But the events in 1978 ensured Sydney’s LGBTQI community stood strong. They were determined to host their own event in Sydney.
“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.”
The 78ers created a defining night in Sydney’s LGBTQI history and Australia’s cultural heritage.
In 1979, NSW Parliament overturned the law that allowed the arrests to be made. The first Mardi Gras march had affected social change in NSW.
That year, 3,000 people marched in an incident-free parade following a full-week festival which included a Gay Alternative Fair Day in Hyde Park. Fair Day is still a mainstay of Mardi Gras week.
Over time the event began to gain momentum and the crowds continued to swell. Large numbers of interstate and international travellers began flying in for the event generating millions of dollars of economic activity for NSW.
Mardi Gras began to evolve and take the shape we know today in 1980, when the post-parade party was introduced. The official after party has been headlined by huge superstars like Kylie Minogue, Cher, Chaka Khan, Boy George and George Michael.
Mardi Gras continues to grow and its yearly themes represent current issues. These open themes encourage more people than ever to join the large family of supporters.
Today, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a world-renowned event and favourite in the Sydney calendar. It captures the imagination of Sydney, taking over the city for weeks on end and culminates in the world-famous Parade: a colourful and dazzling night of pride, celebration and self-expression.
A Drag Is Born – Friday 1 March, Blackbird Café. More info >
Lady Francesca gets the party started with her vogue cabaret show. Five live shows, starting from 6pm with cocktail specials.
The White Party featuring The Age Of Aquaria Show – Friday 1 March, Home The Venue. More info >
Start the weekend right at The White Party. Home The Venue is putting on a bumper celebration including feature-length show by AQUARIA, winner of Rupaul's Drag Race season 10.
Pardi Gras – Saturday 2 March, Home The Venue. More info >
It’s Pardi Gras’ 10th birthday. Celebrate a decade of rainbow good times under the disco ball at Home The Venue.
Matinee Mardi Gras Closing Party – Sunday 3 March, Home The Venue. More info>
Dance your way into the final day of Mardi Gras celebrations with the Morning Glory party. It’s the Mardi Gras Recovery Party you've been waiting for.
Mardi Gras present a packed program across the city. We’re highlighting a few fun finds.
Moogahlin Performing Arts in association with Carriageworks and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras present a series of creative cultural arts events featuring local, interstate and international First Nations qweer artists, thinkers and communities.
18 – 23 February, Carriageworks
Queer Thinking Day 1: Young and Fearless.
Young and fearless thought leaders discuss the current and future state of LGBTQI life & politics throughout the globe.
Bianca Del Rio - It's Jester Joke
After three consecutive sell-out Australian tours, comedy queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race champion Bianca Del Rio returns to Australia with her brand-new comedy show.
18 February, The State Theatre