Mardi Gras Parade consultation: To take part or not?
- Published: 05 June 2010
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New Mardi Gras wants public opinion on what the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade should be about. After the debacle earlier this year around corporatisation and exclusion of queer activists, should we bother to take part in the consultation? Katrina Fox believes so.
It’s fair to say that this year’s Mardi Gras Parade left a sour taste in many queer people’s mouths – mine included.
The exclusion of the Animal Liberation NSW float was the catalyst to a plethora of negative media coverage about Mardi Gras in national and international mainstream and queer publications as well as online social media networking sites and the blogosphere.
Mardi Gras’ favouring of corporate alliances at the expense of local queer, grassroots groups and individuals didn’t go down very well in many quarters. The revelation that corporate sponsors had in the past paid public relations’ firms to hire straight actors for their floats left many people wondering if Mardi Gras had lost its mojo.
The censorship by a local queer media organisation in pulling down the story of Animal Liberation NSW’s exclusion as well as its (then) policy of not running anything remotely critical about Mardi Gras didn’t help matters.
Neither did Parade officials interrogating excluded participants (me and my partner) about ‘unofficial’ placards on the night and telling them they “may be asked to leave the Parade” when they were invited by Community Action Against Homophobia to join its float.
Now New Mardi Gras (the organisation behind the Parade, Party and Festival) has launched an official public consultation into what the Parade should encompass: what areas work, what don’t and where things could be improved.
Many people in the queer community are wondering ‘Why bother?’ So jaded are they by the direction Mardi Gras has gone over the years that they can’t see the point of taking part in this consultation, believing it to be a ‘fait accompli’. Several people have emailed me privately expressing the same sentiment: ‘It’s too late, they’ll just do what they want anyway’.
To be honest, I had the same feeling – and reading co-chair Steph Sands’ recent article in Australia’s national lesbian magazine LOTL, in which she attributes a large chunk to defending Mardi Gras’ decision to exclude Animal Liberation NSW’s float didn’t exactly inspire confidence.
But what has given me a spark of hope is that the person leading the public consultation is the latest addition to the New Mardi Gras board: Siri May.
Siri is a young woman passionate about the queer community in all its forms. Unlike the ‘career queers’ who take up positions in our organisations only to homogenise them, make them safe and further their own personal interests, Siri embraces our diversity. Whether you’re a fruit in a suit or a radical alternaqueer, Siri will battle for you to be included and welcomed.
Writing in the Sydney Star Observer Siri said, “To position New Mardi Gras and the community as two separate entities is to miss the point, and more importantly, the potential of what we can be.”
I really do hope she’s right.
So, as one of the people who publicly criticised Mardi Gras for its exclusionary and heavy-handed tactics earlier this year, I’m willing to meet the organisation halfway and therefore I am encouraging everyone in the queer community, particularly Mardi Gras’ biggest and loudest critics, to take part in this consultation.
Even if you think the organisation won’t listen, if we don’t take part, we guarantee our voices won’t be heard, so I believe it’s worth making the effort. I particularly encourage all gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, intersex, sex and/or gender diverse, queer (and all other descriptors) people who are activists in other fields to have your say.
How to take part in the consultation
One of the good things about the consultation is the variety of ways you can express yourself. For those who do words, a written submission is just fine. But if you’re not into writing, you can shoot a short video (whip out your iPhone and post it to Youtube), dance it, mime it, sing it. You can also take part in online discussions via social media networking sites.
New Mardi Gras is asking for input on six key topics:
- The Parade’s purpose
- Who should participate
- What’s good about the Parade
- What’s bad about the Parade
- What can be improved
- How it should be funded
So, if you’re pissed off that Mardi Gras picked Taronga Zoo as a corporate sponsor when its business is all about the cruelty and exploitation of animals – here’s your chance to say so. Do you want to see more political floats or are you happy with only ‘fun’ entries? Should Mardi Gras help grassroots groups financially to make their floats more colourful and creative?
These are just some of the things to comment on – but it’s up to you to make your voice heard about what’s important about the Parade for you.
When should I make my submission?
The consultation period is open NOW. Deadline for submissions is 25 June, so get on it straight away. Submissions will be posted on the Mardi Gras website.
On 12 July, an evening of discussion and debate will take place, featuring a variety of submissions and comments, ensuring that all points of view are represented.
The New Mardi Gras team will then produce a Parade Development Strategy based on the feedback received, which will be published in time for the New Mardi Gras Annual General Meeting in August.
To take part in the consultation, visit http://www.itsyourparade.com.au/