Mardi Gras grant partnerships deliver $1.3 million to LGBTQI+ groups

Participants in the 2021 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Saturday, 6 March. Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna.

By TRAVIS DE JONK

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has provided almost $1.3 million in grants and sponsorships to support LGBTQI+ community groups, the organisation has announced.

According to figures released by Mardi Gras, since 2016 the organisation has provided over $1,284,508 in funds and support to the LGBTQI+ community, largely through its advertising and sponsor partnerships.

In the 2021 season alone, the organisation reports that it provided $248,000, made possible through four different partnership grants with ANZ, Google, Facebook and a $5000 grant fund from the Mardi Gras organisation itself.

By far the biggest grant pool in 2021 came from Facebook Australia’s Parade Viewing Grants, which injected $100,000 to support 30 venues around Australia – a valuable lifeline injection that helped counteract pressures of the Covid pandemic, allowing venues to hire staff, entertainment and host Mardi Gras viewing events.

The second biggest grants pool was the national ANZ and Mardi Gras Community Grants program. Now in its third year partnering with Mardi Gras, the program delivered $88,000 in 2021, split up into grant allocations of $2,500, $5,000, $7,500 or $10,000, awarded to a range of projects that support not-for-profit organisations, community groups and individuals whose projects benefit LGBTQI+ communities.

Coming in third was the Google and Mardi Gras Parade grants program which saw a total fund pool of $54,000 divided up amongst 27 parade entry applicants to help create extraordinary parade entries in 2021.

The $5000 one-off grant from Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras itself was awarded to The Gender Centre to support the Trans Day of Remembrance.

Mardi Gras says it intends to extend its support of the community beyond the festival with a new vision for the organisation, ‘Always On’. 

The Always On initiative, first announced in November last year, will see Mardi Gras develop year-round initiatives to provide a platform for LGBTQI people, community groups and partners to celebrate, share experiences and provide support – not just in Sydney but also in rural, regional and interstate locations.

“After the last 12 months, many LGBTQI+ groups had been left feeling the impact of the pandemic, so it was important for us to work with our partners on supporting the community, in both the short and long term,” said Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger in an official media statement.

“Our vision of Always On will see Mardi Gras rise to community expectations and provide year-round opportunities for the LGBTQI+ community to have their voices heard,” he said.

“While we are world-renowned for our annual festival in Sydney, our surveying of the community has shown us that there is more we can be doing to improve the lives of LGBTQI+ people. This includes the introduction of grant programs that will continue to support community organisations.”

Mr Kruger’s statement follows a largely successful – but somewhat controversial – 2021 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras season.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade was, this year, held in the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) as a ticketed event instead of its usual free Oxford Street location, to adhere to Covid-safe rules and regulations.

While some bemoaned the new, one-off location, many others praised Mardi Gras for its novel approach, which ensured the parade continued despite the threat of Covid-19.

Controversy also surrounded the relationship between Mardi Gras and rival group Pride in Protest; the latter group held their own parade on Oxford Street on Saturday, 6 March – the same day as the official Mardi Gras parade – albeit several hours earlier.

The Pride in Protest event, dubbed the ‘Mardi Gras Oxford Street takeover’, advocated for a Mardi Gras Parade free from police, right-wing political parties and corporate sponsors.

Organisers said it harked back to the “radical roots” of Mardi Gras as a “proud protest”.

Mardi Gras stood down two of their seven board members – Charlie Murphy and Alex Bouchet – allegedly for their links to the Pride in Protest collective.