MELBOURNE’S annual Midsumma Festival kicked off on the weekend with Carnival day, where festival champions spoke about the journey ahead towards marriage equality and LGBTI rights.

Event organisers estimated more than 100,000 people descended upon Alexandra Gardens throughout the day to celebrate Melbourne’s LGBTI community and diversity with live music, food, and community organisation stalls.

Recently-appointed Midsumma chair John Caldwell said the day showed positive signs for the future.

“Melbourne turned on the weather and that set the stage for what was a magical day,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s hard not to be overwhelmed to see such a display of happiness, joy, and a real sense of inclusion.”

RELATED: MIDSUMMA — THE DIRECTOR’S TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FESTIVAL

Australian cultural and trans icon Carlotta took to the stage in the afternoon and discussed the need to continue fighting for same-sex marriage.

“We’ve got to fight for this gay marriage thing,” she said.

“We’ve got to make sure Malcolm Turnbull takes up the invite to go to Mardi Gras, that will break the ice about everything.

“It’s not over yet – we’ve got to keep fighting until we drop.”

More than 100,000 people were estimated to have attended Midsumma Carnival throughout the day yesterday. (PHOTO: Burke Photography; Star Observer)

Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens was awash with colour and pride for the annual Midsumma Carnival on Sunday. (PHOTO: Burke Photography; Star Observer)

Speaking to the Star Observer, Carlotta said she was honoured to be at the Carnival as one of Midsumma’s 2016 Champions.

“We’ve been fighting for our freedom for years,” she said.

“I can’t believe it… in 1963 I would have been arrested for doing this.”

Former David Jones chief executive and fellow Midsumma Champion Paul Zahra was also present, his first time in 20 years.

“It brings back a lot of memories for me,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s always a time for celebration, but it’s also a time to reflect… there’s a long way before LGBTI people get full equality and since I’ve left corporate life I’ve made that something I want to focus on.

“There are many more people here today than there was 20 years ago. What that says is that there’s a lot more people comfortable with their own sexuality and I think that’s such a positive change.”

More than 100,000 people were estimated to have attended Midsumma Carnival throughout the day yesterday. (PHOTO: Burke Photography; Star Observer)

The main stage area at Midsumma Carnival. (PHOTO: Burke Photography; Star Observer)

On stage, Zahra spoke about Australia falling behind in the movement for marriage equality.

“In the last 12 months we’ve seen two first-world countries, both religious-conservatives [Ireland and the US], get their heads around marriage equality and change the law,” he said.

“Australia likes to see itself as a country that gives everybody a fair go… and I think it’s time for the LGBTI community to be given a fair go.”

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, filling in for Equality Minister Martin Foley who was on leave, also addressed the crowd about the work the Victorian Government has ahead in regards to LGBTI equality.

“We know lots of people are still facing discrimination across the community in a range of different ways,” she said.

“That’s what we’ll be working on in earnest this year in our health services and in our schools.

“Many of you also know that we’ve extended the Safe Schools Coalition to all government secondary schools, making sure that kids are growing up in a safe and supportive environment.”

CLICK HERE to view Star Observer’s Midsumma Carnival + T-Dance 2016 photo galleries

After Carnival wrapped up, thousands stuck around at Alexandra Gardens to party at T-Dance, the free open-air after party.

And at the conclusion of the night, the spire of Melbourne’s Arts Centre nearby was lit in rainbow colours to mark the beginning of Midsumma Festival.

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Midsumma.

CLICK HERE to view Star Observer’s Midsumma Carnival + T-Dance 2016 photo galleries

For all of Star Observer’s Midsumma coverage, click here

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