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A Guide to Sydney’s Mardi Gras Festival

It’s that time of year again! The time when rainbow colours and glitter brighten the streets of Sydney. The time when people band together to honour the history of the LGBTQIA+ community. The time when unity and joy take precedence above all else. That’s right – it’s Mardi Gras season!

Widely considered to be one of the many awesome reasons to live in Sydney, this two-week festival is set to be an epic celebration. From 18 February to 6 March, you can explore a wide range of events, food and drink options, and an extravagant parade. This is one celebration international students won’t want to miss.

To help you celebrate, we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know about Sydney’s 2022 Mardi Gras festival.

The history of Mardi Gras

Today, the Sydney Mardi Gras festival is renowned as an uplifting and often wild party. Its roots, however, are far more serious – Mardi Gras actually began as a major civil rights movement. In 1978, a group of protestors gathered in Darlinghurst, Sydney, to raise awareness of social justice issues, such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The protests resulted in police violence, arrests and subsequent discrimination. This night marked a turning point for not only Sydney’s LGBTQIA+ community but for Australia’s cultural heritage.

Over the following months, more protests and heavy-handed arrests unfolded. In April 1979, the Parliament of New South Wales repealed the NSW Summary Offences Act, which was the piece of legislation that had allowed such violent arrests to be made. In the wake of this victory, the LGBTQIA+ community did what anyone would do: they celebrated. That year, 3,000 people marched in the first Mardi Gras parade without incident. In 1980, they introduced the “post-parade party” – and it was then that the Mardi Gras we know today was truly born.

These strides we have seen in Australia have not been made everywhere. Even today, members of the LGBTQIA+ community are marginalised and even criminalised around the world. As a result, the festival is a refreshing change of pace for many LGBTQIA+ international students in Australia. Oftentimes, it symbolises a new beginning in a country that offers them the freedom to be who they are and to love who they love.

Sydney Mardi Gras festival events

If you’re thinking of attending this year’s festival, you’re probably wondering: what Mardi Gras events are being held? Well, lucky for you, the 2022 program for Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival is jam-packed. Rest assured – you won’t spend one second of these two weeks bored!

Comedy sets, drag shows, musical performances – you name it and the Sydney Mardi Gras festival probably has it. You can browse online to find events you’re interested in and purchase your tickets. Hint: many events offer discounted tickets for full-time students, so be sure to take advantage of these deals!

Perhaps the most famous and beloved event is the Mardi Gras parade. Just like last year, this year’s parade will take place at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Over 6,500 marchers and 160+ floats are set to showcase vibrant costumes, puppetry and props. Believe it or not, your education provider might be amongst these paraders! Every year, some Sydney-based institutions – such as the University of Sydney and Western Sydney University – create stunning floats and march with pride. Watching from the stands, you’ll feel the energy of the crowd and immerse yourself in a colourful wonderland.

Can I participate in the Sydney Mardi Gras festival if I’m not in Sydney?

Absolutely! Due to COVID-19, online events have become the new normal – and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras coordinators have hopped on board with this trend. From online film festivals to workshops and talks, there are heaps of events you can attend from anywhere in the world. Plus, many of these online events are being hosted free of charge, making them perfect for a student budget. Whether you’re studying from the beaches of Queensland, the rural outback of the Northern Territory or from overseas in your home country, you can get involved.

Check out the Mardi Gras Festival’s full list of online events here and sign up today!

Is the Mardi Gras festival COVID-safe?

Yes. The event organisers are taking COVID-19 extremely seriously and have implemented several measures to ensure the health and safety of attendees. Coordinators are asking anyone who is feeling unwell or awaiting COVID test results to stay home. You can find the event’s full list of regulations and recommendations by checking out the COVID-19 FAQs.

Because COVID regulations are always subject to change, be sure to check the rules and restrictions in your area closer to the time of the festival.

Additional resources for LGBTQIA+ international students

In Australia, there are several resources and support services that LGBTQIA+ international students can look to throughout their studies. Some of these resources include:

You can also consult ReachOut’s comprehensive list of LGBTQI+ support services here, including state and territory-based resources.

Additionally, your education provider may offer helpful support resources for LGBTQI+ students, so be sure to check your school’s website for more information.

If you need urgent support, please get in touch with one of the following organisations right away:

When heading to this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations, remember to be safe and, most importantly, have fun!