TO mark the 25th anniversary of Brisbane Pride Festival, Queensland’s biggest celebration of the LGBTI community will receive a level of recognition never before seen from local and state governments, along with police, ambulance and fire and emergency services.

A ban placed on uniformed police officers participating in Brisbane Pride’s annual pride march has been lifted by the state’s police commissioner Ian Stewart. While not officially linked, the move also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Queensland.

[showads ad=MREC]The Star Observer can reveal that following a request from Brisbane Pride president Peter Black, the Queensland Ambulance Service will also have uniformed members participating for the first time in the march that will turn one Brisbane’s Brunswick St into a sea of rainbows on September 19.

The Fire and Emergency Service will also allow their members to march, but at the time of print there was no word on whether a contingency had been arranged.

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Stewart said he had no hesitation in accepting Black’s request to allow uniformed officers to march, a tradition that has seen police involvement in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade dating back to the 1990s.

“In other states, police regularly are involved in those marches to show support and to show that we are a diverse community ourselves,” Stewart said.

“So when I was asked if members of the organisation could march in uniform off duty, I readily gave my support after I’d consulted with the unions and they were very supportive as well, as they should be.”

Black said much of the credit for the decision reached by the police commissioner went to LGBTI members of the service who lobbied internally and that police involvement, along with ambulance and fire services, indicated growing acceptance.

“[Brisbane Pride] is honoured that our state’s emergency services… will be marching in the Brisbane Pride Festival rally and march this month,” Black told the Star Observer.

“Not only is this a really powerful symbol of increased LGBTIQ acceptance throughout the state, it’s an important reminder that people who identify as LGBTIQ play important roles in our society: we are teachers, doctors, tradies, accountants, paramedics and police officers.”

Queensland Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller told the Star Observer that she completely supported the commissioner’s decision.

“I think it’s Queensland at long last coming of age in relation to LGBTI issues and I think that our police officers will look fabulous when they take to the streets in the march,” she said.

“It’s been far too long in coming. We know that certainly in NSW the Mardi Gras has had representatives of the police service down there in uniform for many, many years… and I know that I will be very proud of each and every one of them that choose to march on the day.”

Miller said the recognition given to the LGBTI community by these emergency services not only coincides with the commemoration of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, but it’s also a way to mark how far Queensland has come.

“The days back in the era of Joh Bjelke-Petersen were shocking for the LGBTI community and it’s just so good that now people can wear their uniforms with pride and the police service can march alongside members of the community,” she said.

“It just shows that Queensland has come a long way since those days where a lot of the LGBTI community were extremely isolated and in some cases people were bashed. Now look how far we’ve come.”

Meanwhile in a first for the city, Brisbane City Council has revealed that one bus from a highly visible service between Teneriffe and West End has been completely transformed with a “rainbow skin”, serving as an ongoing celebration of the city’s diversity for several years to come.

“In a Brisbane-first, one of Brisbane City Council’s CityGlider buses will be wrapped in a new rainbow coloured skin, to acknowledge and celebrate the city’s diversity,”  said Cr Peter Matic, council’s public transport chairman.

“This will be the first Rainbow Bus to hit Brisbane streets and is just in time for the Brisbane Pride Festival.

“This administration is the first to provide ongoing funding security for the Pride Festival which receives $7000 per annum for three years and enables the event to contribute to our city’s vibrant cultural life.”

The Rainbow Bus, which builds on the recognition offered to Brisbane Pride and the LGBTI community last year through council-funded bus advertisements, sees Brisbane join the ranks of other cities such as London, Vancouver, San Francisco and others in the rainbow-ing of public transport.

“It seems very appropriate that throughout the Pride Festival, and indeed throughout the rest of the year, the LGBTIQ community will be able to see this symbol of diversity and acceptance on the streets of Brisbane,” Black said.

RELATED: 25 YEARS OF COMMUNITY SPIRIT

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