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Watch: Courtney Act Explains the History of Sydney's Mardi Gras

Thursday Mar 2, 2017

Ever want to learn how Mardi Gras became an Australian tradition? Drag superstar Courtney Act explains it all for you here.

Today's Mardi Gras is one of Sydney Australia's most famous and well-loved events. Each year, thousands take over the city, culminating in the world-famous Parade: a colorful and dazzling night of pride, celebration and self-expression.

So how did Mardi Gras reach this iconic status? The irony is the event that today inspires the world to love each other by celebrating the power and beauty of diversity, was founded through opposition.

As Courtney Act explains in her new video, produced by MTV Australia, the first march took place in 1978 when several hundred gays, lesbians and straight supporters - some in fancy dress - gathered at Taylor Square and followed a truck with a small music and sound system down Oxford Street to Hyde Park. Sydney police harassed the marchers along the way, confiscating the lead float truck and arresting the driver Lance Gowland. Angered by this, marchers diverted up William St to Darlinghurst Road, where the police had closed the road. At this point the police swooped and violently arrested 53 men and women, many of whom were beaten in cells. Over the months that followed, more protests and arrests took place and the actions of the police came to be seen as heavy handed.

In 1979, parliament repealed the legislation that had allowed the arrests to be made and later that year, approximately 3,000 people marched in an incident-free parade. In 1980, a key new element was introduced: the post-parade party.

The face of the modern Mardi Gras - that Conde Nast recently named as one of the world's top ten costume parades in the world - began to take shape.


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