The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras was born out of bravery, courage, and determination by a small group of people in 1978. The first night was marked by violence and arrests, but more than 40 years on, it’s an evening filled with celebration and pride. HealthStrong Occupational Therapist Joe Meadows took part in this year’s parade. HealthStrong is part of the Medibank Group, delivering healthcare services, including physiotherapy, podiatry, and occupational therapy, within retirement and aged care homes, and the community.
As a supporter of ACON’s ‘Pride in Diversity’ program, Medibank was offered two spots for employees to join its Mardi Gras float. ACON is a NSW-based organisation with a mission to enhance the health and wellbeing of LGBTI communities. Joe took part in last year’s parade on Medibank’s float, so jumped at the chance to take part again.
“My favourite part of Mardi Gras is the unique and electric atmosphere of the pre-parade area. Everyone who’s part of the parade gathers there beforehand, and there is such a great sense of togetherness, excitement, with fabulous costumes, and incredible floats!”
Joe (right) at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Joe says Mardi Gras stands out as the most diverse and inclusive LGBTI celebration he’s ever attended.
“I enjoy everything about Mardi Gras. From all the individual parties and family events to the actual parade, there is a beautiful atmosphere throughout, bringing the whole city of Sydney and beyond together.”
Originally from the UK, Joe explains there are plenty of LGBTI events that take place at home, but not on the same scale as Mardi Gras.
“I love attending community events because it’s such a great way to feel connected to those who have similar views to me. Mardi Gras is one of my favourite ways to celebrate who I am with all my friends, both LGBTI and not. On this night, I feel accepted and extremely proud of the progress the LGBTI community is making, not only in Australia but around the world.”
Joe and friend Claire as part of Medibank’s 2018 Mardi Gras float.
Although it has the LGBTI community as its central focus, Mardi Gras is an event for everyone, welcoming people from all different backgrounds, including business allies with LGBTI diversity and inclusion programs.
“Corporate allies are essential in reducing the stigma for those in the community. They help make us feel valued, heard, and equal in all walks of life,” says Joe.
“Medibank is a great example of what it means to be an ally. We are an organisation that encourages employees to participate in diverse and inclusive events. We walk the walk and talk the talk. Words mean nothing if actions don’t follow.”