• Participants take part in the 37th annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford St, Saturday, Mar. 7, 2015. (AAP Image/Nikki Short.) (AAP)Source: AAP
SBS takes a look into the history of the world-famous event.
By
SBS

8 Feb 2016 - 3:55 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2016 - 12:12 PM

Born out of violence and oppression, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras began in 1978 as a protest march made up of a few hundred people.

The march was held in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, which were triggered after a police raid targeted members of the gay community.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people come together in the streets of Sydney to celebrate gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people. 

The original march, on Saturday 24th of June, 1978, was a call to end discrimination against homosexuality. 

But it was met with fierce opposition from police forces.

Several hundred gays, lesbian and straight supporters gathered at Taylor Square and followed a truck with a small music sound system down Oxford Street to Hyde Park. 

There, police harrassment of the lead float led to the arrest of driver Lance Gowland, which quickly prompted 1500 revellers to gather in protest. 

Police arrested 53 men and women, an act that would be the subject of more protests in the following months.

By April 1979, the Parliament of New South Wales repealed the NSW Summary Offences Act Legislation that had allowed the arrests to be made, which meant people no longer had to apply for a permit to have a demonstration, they simply had to inform police. 

By the 1990s, the event had grown to be internationally renowned, drawing large numbers of tourists and spectators.

By 2002, the organisation had grown to a hold full-time staff, even creating its own travel organisation.