THE Northern Territory float for this year’s Mardi Gras is poised and ready to go, with over 85 participants representing the Territory in Australia’s biggest queer parade.

The float, ‘Northern Territory Stars’, is creatively themed to represent “the shining night sky of the NT and all the uniqueness we have to offer,” said the organisers.

It has been organised by Darwin-born theatre makers Daniel Cunningham and Ben Graetz (the creators of Darwin’s ‘Departure Lounge’ pop-up parties), in partnership with the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC).

Cunningham and Graetz are also well known for their infamous drag characters Marzi Panne and Miss Ellaneous.

The float will showcase the NT to Sydney and the rest of the world. The centrepiece is a huge, inflatable star, which will illuminate the float amid hundreds of fairy lights adorning the participants as they march.

“All the stars in the sky are special and unique, just like the LGBTI community in the NT,” Cunningham said.

“We are overjoyed to announce that Territory-born actress Miranda Tapsell (Newton’s Law, The Sapphires, Love Child, Black Comedy, Play School) will be marching again this year, along with her Mum and Aunty.

“Additionally, we are honoured to have leading Aboriginal model and youth and family advocate Casey Conway with us. Casey is the face of NTAHC’s ‘Drama Down Under – Wet & Dry’ sexual health awareness campaign, so we are really excited to have him join the float.”

Another highlight of the NT’s Mardi Gras presence will be the attendance of up to 30 Tiwi Islands sistergirls, who are travelling down from the Top End.

“The sistergirls stand strong in their traditional dances and songs, and continue to share their culture and stories for all of the LGBTI community,” said Graetz.

“They have worked hard to raise their own money to get them to the parade, and this will be their first time attending the Mardi Gras.

“We are over the moon that such a large contingent of the Indigenous community are able to attend. Some of them have never left the NT before, and here we are getting them to walk proud and strong in front of thousands of people in the parade.”

This year’s float has been financed through various fundraising activities in Sydney and the NT, and from the generous donations of local individuals and Top End businesses.

The Sydney Mardi Gras draws over 300,000 people each year, and is one of the highlights of the LGBTI community globally.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be putting the NT on the international gay and lesbian map,” said the organisers.

The Mardi Gras parade is Saturday March 4, and will be televised on SBS TV the following day.

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