The first parade was an attempt to get the bar goers involved in an open display of homosexuality and ended in a riot with police.

People involved with the next few parades feared impending police arrests but eventually changing social attitudes saw the mardi gras increasingly embraced by the wider population. Today it is a hugely popular display of LGBTIQ identity and struggle.



1978: It was a riot

Activists dreamed up the idea of a street party in Oxford Street to engage “apolitical” gays in the bars. Police violence on the night to break up the street party, changed the history of Sydney’s lesbian and gay community.

Ron Austin and Peter Murphy explain the logic of a “street party”. 

Diane Minnis gives some background to the first Mardi Gras.

Robyn Plaister describes the events at College (sic “Collins”) Street.

Peter Murphy and Terry Batterham relate what happened after this.

Stuart Round talks about Darlinghurst Road.

John Greenway tells what happened to the unbanked cash from CAMP, and Chris Pearce describes the night in the cells.

Terry Goulden assesses the fallout.



1979 & 1980

The Gay Solidarity Group organised the 1979 and 1980 Mardi Gras Parades.

Ken Davis gives the background for the second parade.

Barry Power was roped in by his work mate, Lance Gowland to help in 1979 and in 1980.


The party was a novel add on for the parade in 1980.

Philip King tells how it happened.



1981: to summer

The move of the parade from the anniversary date of the Stonewall Riots in NY in 1969, to summer was a divisive shift.

The party was a novel add on for the parade in 1980.

Annie Parkinson remembers the move to Summer and the 1981 Mardi Gras.



1985: Threats

The 1985 parade was nearly called off, due to pressure from conservative voices and threats from vigilantes.

Bruce Pollack remembers.



Mardi Gras and the Community

Attempts were made to build the parade by involving commercial gay venues and community groups.

Barry Power talks about the politics involved in 1980 (sic “1979”).

Murray McLachlan from Cronulla Gay Group was approached to join the Mardi Gras Committee in 1984.



Colour and Movement

The mardi gras workshop in the early 80s introduced the aesthetics and principles of community art to the parade. It was a miracle considering the meagre resources available.

Ron Smith talks about Peter Tully, the Mardi Gras workshop and Imelda’s Shoes.

John Wall explains what it took to put Cronulla Gay Group floats together.




As a group of volunteers, the Mardi Gras Committee in the early days were entrusted to put on huge parades and parties with little experience. Bill Whittaker, Murray McLachlan and Bruce Pollack brought in this expertise.


Murray McLachlan describes these changes.

The Mardi Gras Committee under Bill Whittaker

The Mardi Gras Committee under Murray McLachlan.


Bruce Pollack describes how the Committee handled the media.



Mardi Gras and Women

The involvement of women in the Mardi Gras Committee virtually ceased after the 1982. By the late 80s women began getting involved and by 1990 Cath Phillips was President.

Bruce Pollack talks about bringing women on to Board.