This Saturday I will join thousands of people especially our GLBTI friends in celebrating the 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade.
It continues my long involvement with Mardi Gras which began in 1986 when I was invited to be a parade judge. In 1989, after being elected as MP for Bligh I was proud to launch the annual Mardi Gras Festival. In 1992 I was the first member of the NSW Legislative Assembly to march in the Parade and I have proudly taken part ever since.
While Mardi Gras is now well established as a celebration of our GLBTI community, its continued survival has not always been guaranteed. During my early years in Parliament, Mardi Gras was often under attack by conservative and homophobic MPs and others in the community. To counter this, I tabled petitions supporting Mardi Gras on every Parliamentary sitting day.
I also strongly supported Mardi Gras' request to be considered a significant event and to be exempt from charges which government agencies wanted to impose for staging the annual Parade.
When I became Lord Mayor, I ensured the City became a participant in the Mardi Gras Parade. The City now has a spectacular float in the Parade, and recognises Mardi Gras as a major festival, along with the Sydney Festival, Sydney Film Festival and Sydney Writers Festival. This ensures it will continue to enjoy our significant ongoing financial support.
In 2008 Council unanimously endorsed my recommendation to request the NSW Government's help funding Mardi Gras to ensure that it remains a sustainable and exciting event. It now receives support from Destination NSW.
In 2013, Mardi Gras will celebrate its 35th anniversary. We have come a long way towards full equality since the first parade in 1978, and I hope next year we'll be celebrating the formal, legal acceptance of same sex marriage.
No matter what weather comes our way, I look forward to seeing you at the Parade this Saturday night. Happy Mardi Gras!