With sequins and glitter sparkling, hot pants and rainbow tutus galore, thousands have turned out in Sydney’s CBD for the 42nd Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Crowds were down on last year with an estimated 200,000 attending the parade on Oxford Street, compared to 300,000 last year.
More than 12,600 participants marched at this year’s parade on almost 200 floats.
Festivities began with an Aboriginal smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country by Graham Simms, wearing a glamorous gold sequenced dress.
As they always do, the Dykes On Bikes kicked off the parade proper with more than 150 bikes revving and tooting their way down Oxford Street.
Among the crowd were Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, Sydney City councillor Christine Forster and her wife Virginia Edwards, and ABC chair Ita Buttrose.
Ms Forster said this was the first year she and her wife had not marched in the parade.
“It’s the first time we’ve actually seen the Dykes on Bikes — that was really fun,” she said.
“It’s always a terrific moment for Sydney. It brings so much colour and life and positivity to the city.
“We have had a pretty tough few months in Australia with bushfires and coronavirus and this is a good news event.”
The 78ers, who marched in Sydney’s first Mardi Gras 42 years ago, drew huge cheers from the crowd.
As did Perth-based suicide prevention charity Haka for Life, which did the haka down the parade route while offering supportive words to those who may be suffering depression.
But some of the loudest cheers were for NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and their emergency services counterparts who have been battling blazes for months.
RFS volunteer Samara Moat, from North Rocks, said she was having an amazing time at her first Mardi Gras.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic to let our hair down,” she said.
Fire and Rescue NSW Assistant Commissioner Paul McGuigan said the event had been wonderful after a busy year and the crowd had been right behind them.
“We get fantastic support every year but this year is really special,” he said.
“It’s a really nice way to celebrate what’s been a challenging year with the whole community coming together.”
British stars joins parade
British pop star Dua Lipa briefly joined the parade, dancing and posing for photos with marchers from Surf Life Saving Australia as her song One Kiss blasted on the speakers.
Sam Smith also made a brief appearance marching to their song Tonight before heading into the VIP area.
Marchers also danced to Whitney Houston, Lizzo, Kylie Minogue and Abba.
Labor’s Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong joined the Rainbow Labor float.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore rode in a convertible with Alex Greenwich for the City of Sydney’s float.
About 60 ABC employees marched in the organisation’s first Mardi Gras float, including managing director David Anderson and News Breakfast weatherman Nate Byrne.
In an apparent protest, a group of marchers wearing navy blue jumpsuits with the words “Department of Homo Affairs” across the back, along with others donning giant Scott Morrison masks, attempted to block the Liberal Party float behind it.
Police intervened to drag one member of the group from the parade.
It is believed the group were not on the official Mardi Gras line up.
Drag king Guy Alias said it was his second time at Mardi Gras, having come out “a little later in life”.
“Mardi Gras means absolute pride, joy and acceptance — just being loved for who you are and a complete excuse to be fabulous,” he said.
Jack Williams from Naisda Dance College on the Central Coast took part in the smoking ceremony.
The 20-year-old said he considered Mardi Gras to be a celebration of his ability to overcome adversity earlier in his life.
“I grew up in foster care and it was pretty harsh. I got tossed around a couple of homes because they found out I was gay,” Mr Williams said.
“It’s an achievement to say I can do this, I can be me and not worry anymore.
“Mardi Gras is Christmas, it’s the Oscars, it’s Halloween, it’s my birthday all rolled into one.
“It’s the greatest night to be someone like me.”