Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is an annual event centred around a street parade of up to 20,000 participants. Participants hide or reveal their 'true' identities in a flurry of paint, feathers and glitter.

Body Painting from Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parad.

W Yang  © W Yang

 The Parade participants prepare floats, choreograph themselves into marching groups or attend as individuals. They are usually costumed and painted to represent heroes, villains and icon figures from their various communities. The desire to 'dress up' is fuelled by the culture of drag in Australia which encourages the outrageous and subversive as a form of entertainment.

1978

The first Mardi Gras Parade takes place in June to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York. It takes the form of a protest march of about 1,000 people calling for an end to discrimination towards gays and lesbians. 53 people are arrested.

1981

The Parade is moved to February. An estimated crowd of 5,000 attend.

1983

The arts program is initiated. 40 floats participate while a crowd of 20,000 attend. The Sydney Gay Mardi Gras Association is formed.

1988

Australia's bicentennial year. An Aboriginal float leads the Parade with a gay Indigenous man dressed as Captain Cook. 60 floats participate while a crowd of 20,000 look on. The Sydney Gay Mardi Gras Association's name changes to Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Association.

1993

The Parade becomes the largest outdoor night-time parade in the world. 500,000 people watch.

1994

The ABC films the Parade for the first time and shows it on primetime television the Sunday after the event. It receives the evening's highest ratings.

1998

Mardi Gras celebrates its 20th anniversary.


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