• In a first for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Funeral Directors will join the party complete with a colourful coffin and a hearse named Harry. (LGBTIQ Funerals)Source: LGBTIQ Funerals
"The funeral industry is generally conservative, but we don't all live conservative lives."
Samuel Leighton-Dore

27 Feb 2019 - 1:23 PM  UPDATED 13 Mar 2019 - 9:21 AM

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras mightn't seem like the obvious place for a funeral procession, but then again, this time of year is all about breaking ground.

For the first time in its 41-year history, this year's Sydney Mardi Gras parade will include a float of funeral directors, complete with a colourful coffin and a hearse named Harry.

The history-making float includes 12 funeral directors from queer-run organisation LGBTIQ Funerals, who are hoping their presence will represent the much-needed change in the industry.

Ahead of the parade, Funeral Director Scott Duncombe said: "We do death differently, helping family and friends to create a better way to say goodbye. The funeral industry is generally conservative, but we don't all live conservative lives and we definitely shouldn't have to have a conservative funeral. So we give people love, care and respect when it comes to end of life options."

Duncombe continued: "We want everyone to know that funerals can be fabulous; any shape or size in almost any location, whatever is authentic and appropriate. Being part of the LGBTIQ community ourselves, we're in a unique position to support our community while also ensuring we're welcoming and inclusive to everyone."

The Sydney-based organisation recently helped farewell Warren Whitley, a member of Sydney's LGBTIQ+ community, in a colourful and moving ceremony at a surf club in Maroubra.

Close friend Jeremy Hall reflected on the ceremony, highlighting the importance of unique ceremonies.

"The LGBTIQ community celebrates life in a different way so we often want to be commemorated and remembered in a different way," he said.

"When I think of traditional funeral directors it creates a picture of cold, sad events surrounded by dogma. Many of us have not lived our lives like that, so why should we be remembered like that? There is a real need for funeral directors who understand our unique needs.

"After Warren's funeral, everyone agreed it was a true reflection of who he was. Yes, it was sad, but it was also blended with warm thoughts and fond memories. We celebrated life whilst mourning our loss."

You can watch OnDemand's Thinking Queer collection here, a collection of programs that explore all manner of social, political and cultural issues facing the LGBTIQ+ community.

A live stream of the parade will be available on SBS On Demand and the SBS Twitter account and Facebook page on Saturday 2 March. SBS Arabic 24 will report live from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to Arabic-speaking audiences around Australia.

You can watch the SBS parade coverage on Sunday March 3rd at 8.30pm.

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