Participants at the SCG during the 43rd annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade Source: AAP

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Mardi Gras 2021

RECAP: Thousands fill the SCG for a Sydney Mardi Gras parade like never before

Follow the highlights of this year's unique Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade with the SBS News live blog.

Participants at the SCG during the 43rd annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade Source: AAP

Published , updated 6 March 2021, 11:13 pm
6 March 2021, 10:05 pm

That's a wrap

Before we say goodbye for the evening, here are some memorable snaps from an entirely unique Sydney Mardi Gras.

Doctors, nurses and health workers dedicated their march to the resilience of health workers who have been at the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Breaking with tradition, the 2021 parade was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground so organisers could control crowd numbers. 

Source: AAP

Source: AAP

Former purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt is spotted among the parade performers, skivvy and all. 

Source: AAP

And while it was a very different Mardi Gras to usual, the outfits were just as fabulous. 

Source: AAP

Source: AAP

Source: AAP

Whether you're off to wash the glitter out of your hair or are just getting started on the dancefloor, we wish you all a happy and safe Mardi Gras night! 

6 March 2021, 9:45 pm

The 43rd Sydney Mardi Gras ends with a bang

We've officially come to the end of the 43rd annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

For the first time in history, the parade moved from its home on Oxford Street to the SCG where performers circled the grounds and attendees were confined to their seats.

But despite the less than ideal conditions, there was no shortage of Mardi Gras excitement.

The night ended with a show-stopping performance by British singer Rita Ora, who described the night as a "historic moment" after more than a year of isolation and social distancing. 

"I'm a little bit emotional, this is my first show in a very long time," she told the crowd as she fought back tears. "This is the best community in the world."

Dressed in head-to-toe glitter - as is appropriate for Mardi Gras - she sung four of her hit tracks while dancing on the back of a ute.

In case you missed it, the full parade will soon be available to watch on SBS On Demand

6 March 2021, 9:26 pm

'We might come from one tree, but it doesn’t mean we’re all the same'

Stories about transgender Australians often focus on coming out or transitioning. For Rusty Nannup, her whole story is worth telling.

The Yamatji Noongar trans woman spoke with SBS News about mental health, finally updating her gender identity on formal documents and spending time in Sydney’s Kings Cross in her mid-20s, which she says was “heaven on Earth”:

6 March 2021, 9:22 pm

One person's trash is another person's treasure, even for Mardi Gras outfits

There is no shortage of creativity at Mardi Gras, but this group's outfits perhaps take the cake.

Marching under the name Use Me Up, Wear Me OutNick Perrett and his friends wore costumes entirely made from rubbish and recycled materials.

Nick's boss collected cat food tins and his electrician sister provided an old drum from a washing machine.

Source: SBS News

He says the pandemic, which saw people move out of Sydney's inner city, meant there was a plethora of old stuff left on the streets that was perfect for their costumes.

"What we assembled depends on what we found. We realised that there is so much waste generated from the costumes so we said, let's make them out of things we found," he said.

"We have such a consumer society, we are trying to get the message out about recycling and upcycling." 


6 March 2021, 9:15 pm

Dave Sharma represents the Liberal Party at Mardi Gras

Federal Member for Wentworth Dave Sharma has walked with the NSW Liberal Friends of LGBTIQ+ group, representing the party in the parade.

Source: SBS News

The group says the Liberals have a "proud history of inclusivity" and has been home to many of the first openly gay Australian politicians.

"This group of liberal lovers is all about celebrating liberty, individuality and democracy," they said.

We're well and truly on the home stretch now, with less than 10 floats to come. But don't go anywhere just yet, there's still plenty of excitement to come including a performance by international singer Rita Ora.

6 March 2021, 9:06 pm

This is what it's like to be LGBTIQ+ in the Middle East

In 2017, Egyptian man Ahmed Alaa was arrested after photos of him at a concert where he raised a rainbow flag were shared widely on social media.

In many parts of the Arab world, members of the LGBTIQ+ community face severe social stigma and state-sponsored repression, with some countries still carrying the death penalty for being in same-sex relationships.

Here, Ahmed and another man share their stories with SBS News:


6 March 2021, 8:52 pm

Eurovision contestant Montaigne reflects on Mardi Gras

Earlier, we brought you the news that Australia's Eurovision contestant Montaigne had performed her new song, Technicolour, live for the first time during the parade.

SBS News reporter Jennifer Scherer was able to catch up with the Sydney-born singer after her performance.

Source: SBS News

"It's so nice to be at an event that celebrates queer pride because identity forms the way you carry yourself through the world," she said. 

"Being reminded of a joyful way to do that is wonderful."

6 March 2021, 8:38 pm

Pink triangles and the LGBTQI+ community, explained

You may have noticed those candy-coloured triangle stages smack bang in the middle of the SCG. But did you know about the history of pink triangles and the LGBTQI+ community?

Our friends at SBS Australia have put together this handy video explaining what they mean:

6 March 2021, 8:30 pm

Some familiar faces...

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has walked in the parade, alongside federal MPs Tanya Plibersek and Kristina Keneally. 

Source: AAP

They were joined by members of Rainbow Labor NSW, while Labor Senator Penny Wong shared a memory from last year's event.

6 March 2021, 8:19 pm

SBS celebrates diversity and difference

And I couldn't let SBS' very own Mardi Gras crew go by without a mention.

This year, the public broadcaster chose the theme "Let Your Colours Fly" to celebrate difference and diversity. 

6 March 2021, 8:15 pm

A very COVID Mardi Gras

Even on Mardi Gras, we can't escape the coronavirus pandemic.

Besides the obvious change of location, we've also seen a number of health care workers marching in the parade to big cheers from the crowd. 

GLADD - the association of LGBTIQ+ doctors and dentists - themed their performance "Better Together" to pay tribute to the resilience of frontline workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

"We stand with you, we always have and always will, providing you with the best non-discriminatory healthcare for all. And with the advent of the vaccine, we wish to send everyone a message of hope and love for us all," they said.

Doctor Sophie Keen told SBS News: "It’s a privilege to be here today to celebrate the bravery and unity of the medical profession and the Australian public in 2020-2021 as we tackle COVID together.”

Nurses and ambos have also danced in the parade, alongside a rather frightening pair of "COVID marshals".

6 March 2021, 7:59 pm

Australia's entry Eurovision entry has been revealed

There might be only one other event that's more glitzy and glamourous than Mardi Gras, and that is, of course, Eurovision.

Australian songwriter Montaigne has just taken to the Mardi Gras stage to debut her entry to the 2021 competition, titled Technicolour.

Written and produced specifically for Eurovision, Montaigne said the song "does it all".

"[It] makes you want to cry, makes you want to dance, makes you want to take on a malignant corporate power," she said.

You can take a listen below:

6 March 2021, 7:48 pm

We're just getting started

The sun has set in Sydney, but the night is young. 

A reminder that you can watch SBS' exclusive live coverage of the 43rd annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras right here: 

Tell us, how are you celebrating tonight? Use the hashtags #WeRiseFor #MardiGras2021 on social media to join the conversation. 

6 March 2021, 7:37 pm

In pictures: the parade so far

Some photos from the parade are starting to drop in. Here's what it looks like on the ground.

Source: AAP

Source: AAP

The Dykes on Bikes open the 43rd annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.

Source: AAP

Haka For Life, 'He Waka Eke Noa', a suicide prevention group, marched with Corroboree for Life under the theme "We're All in This Together".

“Tonight, we Dance Together, we Haka Together, we Rise Together in unison, as a reminder that whatever we have all gone through in the past, and whatever challenges we will face in the future, that we don’t have to do it alone," they said.

Source: AAP

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and NSW MP Alex Greenwich march in the parade. 

6 March 2021, 7:25 pm

What was it like to come out in the '70s?

While the SCG is blanketed in glitter, let's take a moment to reflect on the origins of the Mardi Gras movement - and how far Australia has come. 

Back in 1972, Peter de Waal and his partner shared the first kiss between a same-sex couple on Australian TV.

The pair - proud 78ers, the pioneers of Sydney's Mardi Gras - shared more than 50 years together before “Bon”, as he was best known, died from cancer in 2017, just months before same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia.

SBS News reporter Jennifer Scherer spoke to Peter about the stigma faced back then and why events like Mardi Gras still matter today.

6 March 2021, 7:08 pm

Lord Mayor Clover Moore is in the house

Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore has walked in the parade, as part of the City of Sydney contingent. 

And the performances are coming thick and fast, you can watch the live coverage here, but here are some of the floats so far.

6 March 2021, 7:00 pm

78ers: the first Mardi Gras marchers

The 78ers have paraded around the grounds, paying tribute to the original Mardi Gras marchers who protested against the LGBTIQ+ discrimination in 70s.

During that first Mardi Gras on 24 June, 1978, police violently supressed demonstrators and 178 protesters were arrested over the following weeks. Participants were also were also harassed and outed in the media.

In 2018, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller issued a formal apology to the original protesters and vowed to work to heal the wounds from past.

"As the New South Wales Police Force Commissioner, I am truly sorry for the way that you, and the LGBTQI community, were treated back in 1978," he said at the time.

“The actions of police and society and the laws behind them at the time were wrong.

“They caused a deep and damaging rift between police and decent citizens who just happen to be gay."

6 March 2021, 6:45 pm

First Nations float march in black, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement

The First Nations community contingency has entered the grounds, wearing all black to pay tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement and the 434 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people who have died in custody since 1991. 

Their theme this year is "Sovereign Leaders Rise", with performers carrying signs in support of trans Indigenous people. 

Every year, the First Nations float follows the Dykes on Bikes as the first on-foot group to march in the parade. They are then followed by the 78ers which includes people who participated in the first ever Sydney Mardi Gras protest. 

6 March 2021, 6:33 pm

The parade has begun with the roar of engines

Can you smell the exhaust fumes? A Mardi Gras parade like never before is officially underway.

The Dykes on Bikes have roared into the SCG on their hogs (there's something we never thought we'd say) marking the beginning of the parade in front of an estimated crowd of about 10,000.

The group, always a crowd favourite, has led the parade since 1991, just over a decade after they first participated in the Sydney Mardi Gras.

In decades past, the group would roam the streets on their motorcycles watching out for the LGBTIQ+ community. 

Source: AAP

6 March 2021, 6:19 pm

How performers prepared for the big event

At homes and pubs across Sydney, parade performers spent Saturday putting the finishing touches on their acts.

SBS journalist Jennifer Scherer was there getting a behind the scenes glimpse at how the magic of the parade comes together.

She spoke to Joseph Cardona who choreographed the routine for the Sydney Queer Irish contingent, who said the he was looking forward to getting together with friends to celebrate after the past year of social distancing and travel bans.

"With all of us being apart for so long last year, it’s nice to be able to get together and celebrate," he said. 

Brian Murphy, also part of the Sydney Queer Irish group, said: “We are so lucky to be in Australia at the moment when our family and friends in Ireland are doing it a little tough right now. We want to represent Ireland in our entry tonight.”

Keep an eye out for their float later this evening. 

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