• Freedom, 2014 Parade. Pictured: Nova Gina (Dallas Webster). Photographer: Keith Long. (Detail). ((Koori Gras))Source: (Koori Gras)
A new exhibition delves into the world of Indigenous LGBTI people during the heady early days of the Sydney Mardi Gras to now.
Robert Burton-Bradley

24 Feb 2017 - 1:26 PM  UPDATED 1 Mar 2017 - 4:24 PM

To put it lightly, It was hard being LGBTI in the early 80s. Homosexuality was not legalised in NSW until 1984. Queensland and Western Australia did not decriminalize homosexuality until 1990, and Tasmania waited until 1997.

But imagine it’s still the early 1980s and you are gay. Now imagine you are also part of another minority group suffering discrimination. You are gay and Indigenous.

It’s their stories that form the bulk of Koori Gras, a new exhibition which opened this week, chronicling in film and photography the participation of gay Indigenous people in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The curator of the exhibition Tim Bishop created an interactive digital timeline of the history of Indigenous participation in the parade last year, and was then asked to create the Koori Gras exhibition for this year’s Mardi Gras festival.

“The idea for the exhibition came from me starting to pull together the story of the history of First People’s entry into the Mardi Gras parade after I made the timeline,” he told NITV News at the exhibition opening.

Pulling together material was a challenge for Bishop, who says there was not a lot to work with at first.

“The earlier years - it was pretty challenging... People didn’t really have cameras or didn’t take them in the parade, or they weren’t good quality and couldn’t get good photos in the dark,” he said.

As a result, Bishop was propelled into the world of this small group of photographers who had taken an interest in covering the parade and capturing Indigenous perspectives.

“The early archival stuff was all professional photographers who were out there in the early 80s. It was a small group who were actually paying particular attention to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entries,” he said.

“Photographers who took photos during those years like; William Yang, Jamie James, Seymour Hardy and then asking them if other photographers they knew took photos”.

Having the internet as a resource also contributed to the idea of starting with a digital timeline which is a tribute to the photographers and those LGBTI Indigenous people who fought back against discrimination, says Bishop.

“What I have done here also is honor them for always looking out for us, because in the mainstream media we got missed out. It was like it just didn’t happen.”

Koori Gras Exhibition until Sunday 26 February

11.00am - 7.00pm

107 Projects, 107 Redfern Street, Redfern