Community organisations are dropping out of Sunday’s Midsumma Pride March over health concerns with temperatures forecast to reach 37 degrees in Melbourne.

Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is the most high profile withdrawal, citing heatwave conditions at last year’s Pride March as part of the decision not to attend.

“With the extreme heat forecast for Sunday 3 February, we have had to make the tough decision to not march in this year’s annual Pride March,” THH said in a statement published on the organisation’s website.

“We’re committed to looking after the health and wellbeing of our volunteers, members & staff as well as the broader community we serve.

“During heatwave conditions and following our experience in 2018, we have to consider the risks posed by some activities for everyone involved.

“Unfortunately, since the nature of the march will mean being in an open area without significant shade for a prolonged period of time, we can’t ask those marching with us to expose themselves to the associated health risks.”

THH apologised for the withdrawal, recognising the significance of the event to the community.

“We look forward to participating in Pride March next year as well as the many upcoming pride events still to come.”

Rainbow Families Victoria also posted on Facebook late Friday that they would not be participating in the 2019 Pride March, citing “the impact of heat stress on our kids and families” and this year’s earlier start, which will require participants to wait in the sun for a long period of time before the march kicks off.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting that the UV index in Melbourne will be ‘Very High’ at the March’s start time of 11am, rising to ‘Extreme’ – 12 on the UV index or higher – by midday.

Switchboard Victoria, which recently suffered major federal funding cuts to its elder outreach program, has also dropped out of this year’s event. Switchboard had planned an accessible rainbow bus to highlight LGBTI elders in this year’s march.

“Due to the predicted temperatures on the day, we believe it is too hot to safely attend,” the organisation said on Facebook.

“It is with a heavy heart we have made this decision not only because we love the Midsumma parade and see it as an important opportunity to let people know about our service, but also because it was to be our first year entering an elders bus in the parade (another event is being organised to replace this event for our elders).”

BOM is recommending sun protection precautions be taken between 9:20am and 5:40pm, with marchers advised to bring water bottles – with refill stations available at the end of the route – and to wear sunscreen and hats to protect from harsh UV levels.

Transcend, an organisation supporting trans youth and their families, has also announced they will not be participating in the march this year.

“We look forward to this event every year, and we were very excited to have new families join us this year,” Transcend said.

“Having experienced the extreme conditions last year, we decided it was not a healthy option for the children in our care. We wish everyone attending a happy and a very safe Pride March.”

Living Positive Victoria have also withdrawn from Sunday’s event, saying they are “committed to putting the wellbeing and welfare of our members, staff, volunteers and supporters first.”

Valley Youth’s queer youth group, Rainbow Valley, has also elected to withdraw from the Pride March.

“We apologise for any inconvenience but look forward Rainbow Valley’s regular meetups to re-start at the end of February,” the youth organisation said.

Star Observer will be participating in this year’s Midsumma Pride March to celebrate 40 years of publication as Australia’s longest-running LGBTI publication.

Anyone marching with Star Observer is encouraged to bring plenty of water, wear and bring sunscreen for reapplication, and wear protective clothing including a hat and long sleeves in order to stay safe in the extreme weather conditions.

If you would like to march with us, click here to register your interest.

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