As we get ready to dance our way into the SCG this year for Mardi Gras 2021, we look back at our favourite moments from the past five years of Mardi Gras.
Every February and March, Sydney lights up with the colours of the rainbow for Mardi Gras. But so-called ‘Gay Christmas’ is more than a party: it’s a time to celebrate community, empowerment and equality. The Star became a proud Mardi Gras Partner in 2016 and we’ve sailed a float down Oxford Street in the parade every year since. As we practice our moves for Mardi Gras 2021, we look back at our most fabulous and poignant moments of the past five Mardi Gras.
2016 An apology is made and The Star joins the parade
In 2016, participants in Australia’s first Mardi Gras in 1978 – the ’78ers – received formal apologies from the police, NSW government and media for the treatment they faced. Opening the parade, the ’78ers represented the brave souls who led the way for those to come.
It was a reminder of the importance of Mardi Gras and a special year for The Star, as we made our relationship with the event official and become Partners. Pop star Samantha Jade belted out tunes from atop our debut float – themed ‘Shine Bright’ – as our team dressed in silver danced alongside.
For Matt Bekier, Managing Director and CEO at The Star Entertainment Group, the Mardi Gras partnership represents our commitment to creating an inclusive environment for our 22 million annual visitors and 9000-plus team members. “We are proud supporters and partners of the LGBTQIA+ community. Mardi Gras gives us an opportunity to celebrate that in such a positive and uplifting manner,” he says.
2017 Mardi Gras demands equality
The theme of Mardi Gras 2017 was Creating Equality, with the inaugural Koori Gras celebrating queer First Peoples and marriage equality on everyone’s mind. During a parade broadcast to more than a million people, The Star dancers carried giant wedding rings to add their voices to the call for equal rights.
In 2017 there were no professional performers on our float; instead an all-Star team of community members and allies gave it their everything. Leading the charge was PROUD (then Spectrum), a working group representing the LGBTQIA+ voice in our business. Knowing as we do how important creating a welcoming, safe workplace is, we were proud to be involved in an event that demanded greater equality for all in society.
2018 Australia says “I do” to marriage equality
In December 2017 Australia finally said “Yes” to marriage equality, setting the stage for a joyous 2018 Mardi Gras. The Star flourished wedding rings once again in celebration. The ‘Yes’ vote inspired Gaming Operations Supervisor Craig Dumastojoin his first Mardi Gras. The plebiscite was stressful for many in the community, and also brought up Craig’s memories of his uncle’s doomed quest for acknowledgement when his partner passed in the ’80s.
“To have marriage equality recognised was a victory for all those that paved the way with their heartaches and stories,” Craig says. “I also wanted to celebrate the diversity, support and pride that The Star show in all their team no matter their sexual orientation, culture, age or gender. Coming out later in life was made easier by working for a company that celebrated who I was as a person… The sense of team and community during Mardi Gras is so overwhelming, exciting and electric – to this day it is still one of my proudest moments and biggest highlights of my time with The Star.”
2019 The Stonewall Uprising anniversary
In 1969, protests again brutal police raids of Manhattan gay bar Stonewall Inn attracted global support and inspired the first Pride marches in 1970. The Stonewall Uprising’s 50th anniversary in 2019 made us reflect on how far we’ve come, and how much further we have to go.
“I had the honour of marching behind our float with more than 80 team members and senior leaders in 2019,” says Matt Bekier.“I’m still apologising for my lame dance moves, but I wanted to join the parade as I believe that ultimately, we will only succeed in our LBGTQIA+ inclusion efforts if we succeed in building trust. That’s the key – building the trust to have honest conversations that are free from fear and allow our team members to express what they need to feel safe, included and valued.”
2020 Our leaders lead the way
In the year we joined an unprecedented 191 Mardi Gras floats, The Star was recognised as one of Australia’s most inclusive LBGTQIA+ employers with Bronze in the 2020 Australian Workplace Equality Index.
Justine Russell, General Manager Gaming Operations of Treasury Brisbane, marched with others from The Star’s Executive Leadership Team in 2020. “The support, comradery, acceptance and celebration throughout our organisation through this event is extremely inspiring,” Justine says. “It is experiences like Mardi Gras where you see and feel the celebration of diversity within our community and realise the role we play as individuals and as a Senior Leaders for our team… It was a moving experience I will never forget.”
2021 Mardi Gras rises again
Proving the community can’t be shaken, Mardi Gras 2021 has embraced the theme RISE! for a unique program. The floats are staying in the shed, replaced by pageantry, props and of course, frocks as the SCG hosts a one-off spectacular. Built around a mesmerising routine from our resident performer, aerial contortionist Julie Cameron, The Star’s 2021 Mardi Gras performance will be a chance to let our spirits soar after the hardships of 2020 as we rise as one with love, compassion and understanding.