History of the Mardi Gras

Elaine Gabales, Matt Morris
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March 4, 2022
Back to Inspiration

Today, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of Australia’s most famed and well-loved events. Celebrating the LGBTIQ+ community, it’s truly a mafnigicant time to be in Sydney with people flocking from everywhere to sing, laugh, dress lavishly, dance provocatively, and feel that wonderful feeling of togetherness.

Mardi Gras parade 2021
Mardi Gras parade 2021. Credit: mardigras.org.au

It all started on a cold winter’s night in June 1978 when a brave group of people from Sydney’s Gay Solidarity Group marched through the streets of Sydney, during the time when being homosexual was still illegal in Sydney. More than a march, you could call it a parade. And their aim - to raise awareness of the LGBTIQ culture and encourage political policy against the discrimination they suffered daily. 

The event took place on the 9th day of riots that had taken place in New York following the police raid on a gay bar called Stonewall Hostel. These riots could well be the start of the gay rights movement globally.

On that night of 24 June 1978, the brave folk marched slowly down Oxford Street towards the city of Sydney, much to the resistance of the local police, who hijacked the lead vehicle and microphone as the parade arrived at Hyde Park. The crowd retreated and headed toward Kings Cross instead, police followed and the result was 53 people arrested.

Despite the heavy-handed response by the police, the violence witnessed that night was a catalyst for change in Australia. The next year, the people of Sydney had made event even larger and by 1980, an after part was added, and this is what helped turn the event into one of the biggest parties in Australia.

During the 1980’s, the event numbers grew and the event gained more popularity including major media coverage. It’s has only grown since then. 

Today, people travel from around Australia and around the world to attend the carnival and the event it broadcast on national television. The theme for 2022 is United We Shine, and runs until March 6. If you’re in Sydney in March, do yourself a favor!

For a more detailed history we recommend checking out the official history here.




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