SPECTACULAR weather in Melbourne on Sunday helped bolster the huge crowd for Carnival, the annual event that launched the city’s Midsumma festival.
Over 100,000 people attended Carnival, which this year saw it return to its former venue in Alexandra Gardens.
The first Victorian Premier to do so, Denis Napthine spoke to the assembled crowd and used it an opportunity to announce increased state government funding for the LGBTI cultural festival, up from $40,000 to $50,000 for the next three years, and plans to allow historical convictions for gay sex offences to be expunged.
“It makes us very pleased as Melbournians and Victorians that we host such a fantastic festival, which really does celebrate the rich diversity of life here in Victoria,” Napthine said.
Along with entertainment from festival acts, speakers included Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and gay Aboriginal activist and performer Noel Tovey, who talked about the significance of the Premier’s announcement on historical gay sex convictions. Tovey was jailed for gay sex offences in 1951 when he was 17.
Organisers were happy with the turnout, and festival director Monique Thorpe thanked volunteers and the community for getting behind Carnival.
“Midsumma Carnival had everything we wanted it to: community participation, a mellow vibe, glorious sunshine and thousands of people with smiles on their faces,” Thorpe told the Star Observer.
Midsumma chair Aaron Hockly echoed Thorpe’s comments, making specific mention of the numerous straight allies attending in support of the LGBTI community.
“We had the largest number of stalls and food vendors on-site in our history and sold the largest number of tickets to the arts festival which runs for the next three weeks,” he said.
The day wasn’t without controversy. A flier circulated by Rainbow Labor Network Victoria members criticised Premier Napthine for previous comments indicating a lack of support for LGBTI issues. Most quotes were over 10 years old, but one in opposition to marriage equality was dated March 2013.
Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown told the Star Observer he was disappointed with the flier, and said it shouldn’t take away from the Premier’s announcement.
“It was a real pity that Labor chose to engage in political attacks in an anonymous, unauthorised flier at Midsumma,” Newton-Brown said.
“Not once did any Labor member congratulate Premier Napthine for being the first Premier ever to attend Midsumma. Actions speak louder than cheap political point scoring and Premier Napthine has come through with the goods for the GLBTI community.”
Newton-Brown reiterated the Coalition Government’s support of LGBTI issues including funding HIV rapid testing, AIDS research and anti-bullying programs in schools.
Albert Park state Labor MP and adviser to the Opposition Leader on LGBTI Equality Martin Foley denied the flier was distributed anonymously.
“I don’t think it’s a secret. Rainbow Labor were distributing a leaflet pointing out the Premier’s long hostility to LGBTI equality issues,” Foley said.
“That therefore leads you to the question of why the Premier at this election year eve decided that this is going to be a matter that he acts on.”