• The First Nations float at the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. (SBS)Source: SBS
We take a look at the history behind the First Nations float for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras - from humble beginnings to parade stopper.
Michaela Morgan

26 May 2016 - 11:13 AM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2017 - 5:34 PM

When First Nations community member Rusty Nannup attended the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1986, she wasn’t sure what to expect.  

“We didn’t think we were going to get past the marshalls,” she says. “But we did!”

“All of a sudden we’re in the middle of the street with all these other people dancing around, screaming and whistling at us. We just rocked it,” she says, noting that he “danced in heels all the way through,” giving her “blisters for a week”.

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Since then, with help from ACON, the First Nations float has become an important part of the Mardi Gras celebrations, moving to the front of the parade in 2005.

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“It’s not just for the LGBTI community, it’s also for the whole community. It helps reduce stigma and discrimination,” says ACON Aboriginal Health Officer, Steve Morgan.

Over the years, the First Nations float has showcased the talents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI performers including Destiny Haz Arrived - who will be performing on this year’s float - entitled Creating Equality: Step by Step.

Step by step, the First Nations lead the way at Mardi Gras
“We gather too often for inequality. This is an opportunity to focus on the celebration of their lives and achievements.”

This video originally appeared in the 2016 Mardi Gras broadcast. For more great stories, tune into the 2017 Mardi Gras, airing Sunday at 8:30pm, March 5th on SBS. Check out a teaser below: