2017 Sydney Mardi Gras (Credit - Jeffrey Feng)
2017 Sydney Mardi Gras (Credit - Jeffrey Feng)

All is in readiness for the largest Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras ever as memories of the first parade 40 years ago were alive at the launch today.

More than 12,000 participants in around 200 floats will take to the streets of Darlinghurst on Saturday night in the 40th Anniversary Parade, something that was never in the minds of the protestors on that fateful June night in 1978 when 1500 protested against the mistreatment of gays and lesbians across the world, in-turn violence erupted and 53 protestors were arrested.

Original protest in June 1978

Speaking at the parade launch today, one of the original 78’ers Betty Hounslow said it was a mix of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals and heterosexuals that marched that night.

“I think we feel a tremendous sense of pride of the fact that we didn’t allow the results of that night deter us, we went on fighting for our rights, fighting for recognition and feel terrifically proud that we have come a long way” Mrs Hounslow said.

“Life is much better and much brighter than it was 40 years ago.

“We feel a great sense of delight that we inadvertently started this [Sydney Mardi Gras] I mean we wore overalls, we were a bit tatty, and yet we helped create this fantastic and spectacular delightful event that Mardi Gras has become.”

78er Betty Hounslow speaks with NS Assistant Commissioner of Police Jeff Loy
78er Betty Hounslow speaks with NS Assistant Commissioner of Police Jeff Loy

NSW Assistant Commissioner of Police Jef Loy spoke again that night and reinforced the apology that was made to the 78ers back in 2016.

“It is important to recognise when we get things wrong and that was one of those nights,” Commissioner Loy explained.

“The policing operation this year will focus on safety and security.

“I stand here and can say to you we will not be returning to the policing strategies of 1978.”

Cotton Blossom - Made & Warn by Ron Muncaster in 1994 Mardi Gras.
Cotton Blossom – Made & Warn by Ron Muncaster in 1994 Mardi Gras.

Along with costumes from across the 40 years of Mardi Gras, characters that will appear in the parade on Saturday night were at the launch including three ladies from the Broken Heel Festival.

Stars of the Broken Heel Festival
Stars of the Broken Heel Festival

Flying in for the media, Netflix stars also made a photocall during the launch with Mindhunter and Looking star Jonathan Groff headlining the Netflix float on Saturday night.

Orange Is The New Black‘s Danielle Brookes (Taystee), Lea Delaria (Big Boo) and Aussie Yael Stone (Morello), as well as 13 Reasons Why stars Christian Navarro (who plays queer character Tony) and Alisha Boe (Jessica) will also be appearing.

Netflix stars attending Mardi Gras -(L-R) Jonathan Groff, Danielle Brooks, Alisha Boe, Yael Stone, Christian Navarro
Netflix stars attending Mardi Gras -(L-R) Jonathan Groff, Danielle Brooks, Alisha Boe, Yael Stone, Christian Navarro

The parade kicks off at 7pm Saturday night and is expected to wrap up around 11pm when revellers will then hit the clubs of Oxford Street or head to the Mardi Gras After Party to see an exclusive performance by Cher.