TWO rainbow flags have been raised out the front of St Kilda’s Town Hall ahead of Melbourne’s upcoming Pride March.

More than one hundred groups will take part in the 22nd march, which will be led by Aboriginal elders and community leaders for the first time this year.

Gay Aboriginal elder Uncle Jack Charles delivered the ‘Welcome to Country’ at the flag-raising ceremony, where he spoke about his experience coming out.

“I’m an old gay and arty bloke, everyone knows that,” he said.

“But I actually never intended to out myself, it just kind of came out and everyone got on board with it.

“Then when I did time in jail people knew I was gay, but they never approached me or tried to get into my pants. I was in a position where I was also able to protect the younger ones who felt they were being harassed by people on drugs in jail.”

Charles added that he’d like to use his visibility and prominence in both the LGBTI and Aboriginal communities to help improve the prison system.

“I’d like to return to prisons to continue that journey to shake the consciousness of those there and to relight the burning embers of many a blackfella and white man,” he said.

“That’s the job of an elder in my unique situation – I’m proud to be here in this beautiful place on a beautiful day to give welcome to this special flag raising.”

Chair of Midsumma Festival John Caldwell also spoke at the event, addressing the concerns many members of the LGBTI community had raised with the festival.

Late last year the festival came under attack by a handful of activists who criticised its partnership with News Corp.

“I was really surprised initially about the focus the community puts on Midsumma and the scrutiny under which Midsumma operates,” he said.

“But then I realised there are not many other ways the community can feel connected to something bigger.

“It’s sad that more and more LGBTI venues and organisations are disappearing at a time when we probably need them more than we ever have.”

Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Katherine Copsey said it was time again to fly the rainbow flag for equality as a symbol of pride.

“This flag raising is important to us, as we have a proud and continuing history of supporting LGBTI community members and being at the forefront of movements urging social change,” she said.

“The pride march remains just as relevant more than two decades on as it celebrates Victoria’s queer community in a world where the struggle for rights and visibility continues.”

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