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Sydney WorldPride Showed How to Party With a Purpose – and Beyond

Sydney WorldPride Showed How to Party With a Purpose – and Beyond

Sydney WorldPride Showed How to Party With a Purpose – and Beyond

The international event centered indigenous and First Nations queer artists as well as Australia’s sometimes violent LGBTQ+ history.

Not just a parade and a party, Sydney Mardi Gras evolved from Australia’s own version of Stonewall in 1978, when police violently broke up the city’s small public Pride celebration. Those who took part in that march and suffered at the hands of police are revered as “78ers” and hold a place of honor in the Australian LGBTQ+ community.

When Sydney WorldPride convened this year under the banner “Gather, Dream, Amplify,” organizers wanted to extend that celebration of history to center Indigenous First Nations as well. After all, Australia’s Aboriginal people have lived here for at least 65,000 years, making theirs the oldest continuing culture in the world.

Indigenous marchers at Sydney Mardi GrasPHOTO COURTESY DESTINATION NSW

So it was fitting that the spectacular two-week WorldPride, coinciding with Sydney Mardi Gras, gathered and amplified that culture and history even as it hosted ubiquitous parties, drag performances, and Speedo-sporting men of all shapes, flavors, and sizes.

The Human Rights Conference included First Nations elders and leaders alongside LGBTQ+ activists, policymakers, and experts from around the world. There were also exhibits of LGBTQ+ art from local and Indigenous artists at museums and spaces throughout the city. The Powerhouse Museum hosted “Absolutely Queer,” which included the Australian premiere of Paradise Camp by Pasifika, Asian, and fa’afafine (Sāmoa’s third gender) artist and photographer Yuki Kihara, and a stunning collection of original pieces from the late, iconic Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti. The historic Art Gallery of New South Wales featured an extensive exhibit of Aboriginal art and highlighted works by LGBTQ+ Australian artists included in their existing collections.


A smaller exhibition at the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative featured local publishing house Blackbooks ( and its newly released work of poetry from First Nations LGBTQIA+ writers entitled Nangamay Mana Djurali (Dream, Gather, Grow). And the Blak & Deadly concert centered LGBTQ+ Aboriginal and First Nations artists and performers at the famed Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall.

Music unites us all, and it’s also how organizers kicked off Sydney WorldPride, with the open-air Live and Proud concert in the Domain, an 84-acre grassy field adjacent to Sydney’s world-renowned Royal Botanic Gardens. Performers included Courtney Act, Jessica Mauboy, and Charli XCX, but the highlight of the evening was Australian megastar Kylie Minogue.


Naturally, the WorldPride parties were extravagant. At Ivy, Sydney’s only rooftop pool bar, hundreds of scantily dressed men danced the night away to drag performances and a rocking DJ at the Mardi Gras Kaftana Pool Party. Australia’s burgeoning ballroom scene was on full display at the annual Mardi Gras Sissy Ball at the Sydney Town Hall.

The grassy promenade overlooking Bondi Beach was filled with thousands of partygoers in their most revealing beach attire dancing under the stars to the beats by an all-Australian lineup of DJs. Lesbians had their own play space at Bar 83 atop the Sydney Tower for Ultra Violet, the premier event for queer women. SWP closed with a massive Pride March across the picturesque Sydney Harbor Bridge and a spectacular finale concert where 120,000 people gathered to hear Ava Max, Kim Petras, Muna, Keiynan Lonsdale, and more.

Concert goers at Sydney World Pride's Domain Dance Party

With WorldPride, Sydney amplified the contributions of the Gadigal, Cammeraygal, Bidjigal, Darug, Dharawal, and Awabakal people and Torres Strait Islanders, considered the land’s traditional custodians; the interconnected international LGBTQ+ community; and its own reputation as a world-class city.

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Donald Padgett

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.