• The Broken Hill Mardi Gras (The Feed)Source: The Feed
More than 10,000 people will march in the Sydney Mardi Gras next month with hundreds of thousands cheering them on. But there's another Mardi Gras that you've probably never heard of.
The Feed

8 Feb 2016 - 3:14 PM  UPDATED 8 Feb 2016 - 3:14 PM

Broken Hill is an isolated mining town surrounded mostly by desert in far west New South Wales. Of it’s 20,000 people - most are miners, health workers and there is also a strong indigenous community too. But there's a growing push for more people to recognise the outback's LGBTI community.

Brad Scanlon is the local Police Sergeant and Prosecutor in Broken Hill. He also happens to be gay and has called the outback home for the past three years.

"I didn’t know what to expect coming out here," says Brad. "I came out here with my partner, and there was no sign of a gay community out here."

"The outback isn’t going to change for you... it’s uncompromising."

But Brad and his mates are working to change that by hosting their very own Mardi Gras.

"It’s called Drive the Rainbow because that’s what we’re doing, we’re driving a fleet of four wheel drives in rainbow colours," says Brad.

"We’re going to drive to historic landmarks, hotels and then have a celebration... to explore the needs of bisexuals, transgender, lesbian and gay people in the outback."

And Brad's not the only person pushing for more recognition of LGBTI people in Broken Hill. Tracey Willow is the Chief Executive Officer of Far West Community Legal Service Inc and she says that while some people might want them to stop she sees mardi gras event as valuable to the community.

"There are people in our community that would prefer we go away, be quiet, don’t raise these issues," says Tracey. "Today’s a really exciting event... it shows our community the importance of pride and messages like respect and safety and vibrancy, and that’s something we really want our community to see today."

Brad and Tracey have been working hard at making their local Broken Hill event happen as an off-shoot to this weekend’s Mardi Gras in Sydney.

The Sydney event is a massive celebration of pride and diversity but it hasn’t always been that way. What started as a peaceful parade quickly turned into a riot.

The first march took place back in June 1978 but it was met with violence. Police arrested 53 men and women, many of whom were allegedly beaten in cells.

Over the months that followed, more protests and arrests took place and the actions of the police came to be seen as heavy-handed.

Over time the perception changed because gay and lesbian communities put up a fight. But while many groups have been around a while - the Broken Hill group is just starting their battle.

Less than 20 people turned up for the first ever Broken Hill Mardi Gras - much less than Brad and Tracey had hoped for.

After making it’s way across town the convoy ended with a small but positive reception. 

But despite the small turnout Brad and Tracey are hopeful that the event will grow and evolve in the future as attitudes towards LGBTI people change in regional Australia.

"I’ve met a number of gays, lesbians and transgender out here. We’re up to a couple of dozen now who we’ve become friendly with," says Brad. "This event is the first time, it may evolve, it may change"

"Besides all the good things that we’ve achieved from this, there’s still much more to do in our community," says Tracey. "Certainly, when we have our member of Parliament standing up against us, especially around people’s right to marry, then we’ve got a long way to go but today’s the reminder that we’ve got to stand together, and that’s what we’re doing."