On Saturday 5 March, Sydney’s Oxford Street was awash with rainbows and glitter and filled with music for the annual Mardi Gras parade. Seventy people marched with Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) members of the Uniting Church in Australia and their friends, families and supporters.
During the march, Uniting Network were drumming to demonstrate anger, and holding lanterns as a symbol of light. The theme of the float was more sombre than the typical Mardi Gras celebrations: LGBTIQ refugees are welcome here. The float was a protest directed towards the Australian government’s treatment of people fleeing persecution overseas because of their LGBTIQ status. There are currently numerous LGBTIQ people having their claims of asylum in Australia slowly processed; some are detained on Manus Island.
The parade followed a forum held at Pitt Street Uniting Church on 24 February with the theme LGBTIQ Refugees: Australia Can Do More. Speakers included Gillian Triggs of the Human Rights Commission, Imam Nur Wasame of Marhaba for LGBTIQ Muslims, and Che Bishop of Asylum Seekers Centre. The forum was well-attended by church members and community groups, and finished with new avenues for concerned people to take action together.
After a hectic, exciting, and humbling experience preparing for Mardi Gras, Uniting Network now looks forward to the national gathering in Melbourne in June, Daring to Reach Out: Honouring Our Diversity.
To find out more about Uniting Network visit http://www.unitingnetworkaustralia.org.au.
To view scenes of Uniting Network in action at the 2016 Sydney Mardi Gras parade visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA9heQ_efTM.