Looking back on the first Mardi Gras with 78ers

Films, Performing Arts

At 10pm on the 24th of June 1978, the first Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras took place. Nothing like it is today, the first march was met with police violence that became a catalyst for change.

From arrest to acceptance Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras grew out of a terrible night in our history.

A planned street festival calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals in employment and housing, an end to police harassment and the repeal of all homosexual laws, saw 2000 people step out from the Oxford Street Bars and clubs responding to the call, out of the bars and into the street.

Although the organisers had obtained permission, this was revoked, and the parade was broken up by The police.

It was actually the opposition that the march was met with when it first began, both from outsiders and within our own communities, that help to shape it into the iconic beacon of pride we see today as one of Australia’s most loved events.

But as we look at 40 years of Mardi Gras, what does moving from protest to pride actually mean. At Mardi Gras Fair Day earlier this year, Dean Arcuri sat down with Ken, Diane, Michael and Robin from the 78ers and asked just that, as they reflect on that first march and how far we have come today.

Photo: The Pride History Group

This segment of The Informer aired on JOY 94.9 on 21st June 2018.