On the first Saturday night in March, Scouts NSW participated in one of the biggest events held in the heart of Sydney.
Sixty members of Scouts NSW took part in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade, marching to promote and share our support for young people from all walks of life. This year, we were joined by Girl Guides NSW and ACT, with the theme of our float being ‘facing challenges with courage’.
The aptly-titled ‘fearless’ and fabulous Mardi Gras Parade attracted an estimated half a million spectators who lined the streets, rooftops and balconies of Oxford Street, along with millions who watched SBS’s live-streamed coverage. There were almost 200 groups represented this year, with over 12,500 marchers taking part in the world’s biggest celebration of the LGBTIQA+ community.
It was the 41st anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which is one of the oldest continuously operating LGBTIQA+ organisations in Australia. Founded at a time when there was wide-spread, institutionalised oppression and discrimination, today it has evolved to include a strong focus on celebration while maintaining a commitment to social justice.
The Rover section was the glue connecting every aspect of our successful participation. The float was led by Ayla Jones and championed by Deputy Chief Commissioner, Wal Waerner. It showed support for young people of diverse sexuality, gender identities, and young intersex people.
Monica Gonzalez, a NSW Rover, joined the team this year. She explained why she wanted to participate: “I think Mardi Gras should first and foremost be a celebration of community, diversity, inclusion and freedom of expression. It shows how far we’ve come. It certainly means a lot to me to know that so many big organisations, companies and not-for-profits like Scouts are taking the opportunity to say, “We’re here for you, we’re here for everyone and we want to keep building a more inclusive community together.”
In 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics introduced questions into its annual surveys that asked about diversity. More than half a million, or almost 3 per cent of the adult population, were prepared to tell the questioners that they were gay, lesbian or another sexuality.
That’s over 1 in 50 Australians.
In the UK in the same year, 49 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 identified themselves as other than completely heterosexual in a YouGov survey.
Monica explained: “We’re so lucky that this is all possible in Australia. I think celebrating Mardi Gras is also setting an example on what it looks like to have a nation which accepts and supports all of its citizens.”
Ayla Jones described the importance of demonstrating how Scouts is inclusive and welcoming to all young people from all walks of life.
“It shows that scouting is a safe place to people to be themselves, whoever they are,” Ayla explained.
Diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the New Youth Program, embedded at every stage of the Adventure Begins, and reflected in the core purpose: Scouting provides young Australians, of all ages, gender and ability, with challenging and adventurous opportunities.
Congratulations to everyone who took part and who helped take our rightful position on the world stage, representing every young person who wants to join Scouts and to fearlessly face challenges with courage.
If you’re interested in participating in the 2020 Sydney Mardi Gras, you can register your interest here, and showcase inclusive Scouting on one of the biggest stages in Sydney.