Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
In June 1978, a group of activists in Sydney convened to celebrate an 'International Day of Gay Solidarity' to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York -- a protest that is often considered to be the beginning of a modern gay rights movement. The activists adopted a festive approach to encourage people to leave the gay bars of Sydney's Oxford Street to join their march westwards along Sydney's Oxford Street, then the heart of a burgeoning gay precinct. Upon reaching the Whitlam Square area, the marchers were met by police urging them to disperse. However the crowd thought otherwise and a decision was taken to march north along College Street, then east along William Street, to the heart of Sydney's nightlife area, Kings Cross. There the demonstrators were met by force from police who, in violent confrontations, arrested many of the protesters.
The arrested protesters were taken to court and the right-wing Sydney broadsheet newspaper -- the Sydney Morning Herald -- printed the names and occupations of those arrested, leaked to the paper by the NSW Police. As a result of these provocations, the original 1978 riots became a rallying cause for members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities of Sydney and elsewhere in Australia. The original protest was commemorated in 1979, and in subsequent years the event moved to the warmer Summer months and, as result, took on the name "Mardi Gras".
The Mardi Gras is traditionally thought of as a street parade, due in no small part to the event's history. This night-time parade has evolved to become one of the largest street parades in the world with participants numbering in the tens of thousands, and spectators numbered in the several hundreds of thousands. From its original roots as a protest against gay and lesbian oppression, Mardi Gras is now largely seen as festive event.
The street parade grew to become a large event, and needed somewhere to disperse the growing crowds, leading to the advent of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras party. This party usually commences around the time of the end of the parade and continues until the following morning. This has for many years been held at what was the Royal Agricultural Society Showgrounds at Moore Park, now known as Fox Studios. Crowd numbers grew through the 1980s and by the 1990s, party attendance in the order of 20,000 revellers or more became commonplace.
In 1985, at the height of public concerns about AIDS, calls were made for the Mardi Gras to be cancelled. These calls were resisted and the parade and party continued. In 2002, the organisers of the Mardi Gras suffered financial loss and the event was at risk of not taking place again. Following community consultations a new organisation 'New Mardi Gras' was established, with a leaner financial approach.
In 2008 the Mardi Gras celebrated their 30th anniversary.