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It's back - one of Australia's biggest and most anticipated events, proudly bringing people from all corners of the world together to celebrate the LGBTQI community. 70,000 people will stand among us to witness the colourful, energetic, world-famous Mardi Gras Parade this weekend - and we can't wait.
Whether you're extremely passionate about Mardi Gras or a newbie to the event, it's hard to ignore all of the festivities - so get stuck in! Embrace the craziness - from dazzling dancers and divas in drag to confetti explosions and glitzed up ATMs, a whole lot of fun is coming our way!
One important thing to remember is that Mardi Gras wasn't always a fabulous, fun-filled parade. We must acknowledge its inspiring, not-so-colourful 39 year history. The opposition it faced when it began in comparison to today's international recognition, acceptance and celebration is a true testament to those who bravely marched and fought for their rights, and how far society has come to accepting diversity and difference.
Mardi Gras has different meanings for different people, but the key message has remained the same for decades - just be you.
We chatted to TAFE NSW students and staff to find out, in a sentence or two, what Mardi Gras means to them personally - here's what we got (the good and the bad).
"I think Mardi Gras means having fun and accepting being different" – Zoe, floristry student
"A celebration. Bringing tourism to Sydney for all the right reasons" – Jeff, teacher at TAFE NSW
"My friends and I are part of the LGBT community and think it's fantastic. I'm really grateful to have constant exposure to it all, the festival itself is amazing" – Spencer, floristry student
"Mardi Gras is the one night of the year that I feel I can express myself with a collective of people that accepts me for who I am. I've been a part of this event for more than 20 years and it's great to be part of such a great community who celebrate together and educate the wider population on some of the issues that are faced by people in this community. It is a wonderful opportunity for our Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Transgender and everyone else to be part of a unique event that celebrates equality and diversity!" - Ant, Change Manager at TAFE NSW
"I think it's lost its main objective. When it first started in 1978 it was all about equal rights, a protest. I've danced on and off at the Mardi Gras aftershows for 17 years, don't get me wrong, I freaking loved it! But every year I think it's becoming more of an excuse to get drunk and party more than anything" - event management student
I think it's gone a little off topic and lost the focus on its values. It's all become very commercialised – Kate, business student
Mardi Gras is all about raising awareness. I love that it's a celebration that everyone can get involved it - even all the big organisations, police and other government agencies get involved – it's great fun. Everyone's just in the best mood" - Geraldine, Social Media Officer at TAFE NSW
So camp and so fun, a big colourful excuse to party and I love it! – Dan, fashion student
"Fun, dancing, happiness. Everybody's being themselves. Barriers come down and there's no judgement. It's a really really cool festival, and the GAYTM's!" – Catrin, Customer Engagement Director at TAFE NSW
There you have it - Mardi Gras has different meanings for everyone. Either way, we're all celebrating!
If you're keen to catch the other festivities happening all weekend for Mardi Gras, here are some cool events to get involved in:
Does exactly what it says on the tin. Take a break from spending your cash, and enjoy the free music and performances from some of Sydney's best Drag Queens. You'll be dancing the whole way home.
An exhibition of crochet wearable art. Yep you heard that right. The Melbourne artist, Phil Ferguson creates the pieces using inspiration from everyday objects such as teabags! Might be an interesting event to witness.
Get your active wear out and join a walking tour to find out how LGBT Sydney started, and where the local hangouts are, from bars to cafes to galleries. A good opportunity to sample the LGBT life and take some awesome pics of this beautiful city.
See how these beautiful photographs tell stories of the LGBTQI community over a ten-year period. This free exhibition aims to give light to individuals who are struggling with their sexuality, while also spreading awareness to the wider community. Because who doesn't love creeping through photos!
Spreading bold messages around sexuality and ethnicity through embroidery. This creative work is brought to life through machine-based embroidery, embedded straight into traditional paint on canvas. Get yourself to Erskineville to experience this unique exhibition.