It has been 26 years since Victoria’s inaugural Pride March, an event that far exceeded the organiser expectations both in size and the veracity to which it was received.

“It started because Melbourne didn’t have an event like a Pride March,” Penny McDonald, one of the original event organisers recalls.

“The first one in 1996 was huge, we thought if we get 100 or so people that would be good, I think there was about 11,000. We didn’t fit in the park where we were marching to and we were completely blown away and thought obviously there is a need for an event like this here in Melbourne.”

Continuing, McDonald tells us that, “If I compare it, as someone who was part of Melbourne Marching Girls who would go to Mardi Gras, we would have had to spend a year fundraising because we needed a float and costumes and a sound system. It was exciting but it was big, and it was costly. We wanted Pride March to be accessible, where community groups could come together and they might wear the same-coloured t-shirt or hand make their banners, but it was something that was easy to do.

Pride March Victoria 1995 (Photo: Graham Willett; Source: Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

“We consciously went for a no-float approach, and made it cheaper and more accessible to participate in, that from my memory was very important.”

“There is something about a march on the street with banners, that is very public and something that is saying ‘we are here, we exist, and we are part of this community and we want respect and equality.’

“Going to a pride parade or march or even Mardi Gras is just up an extra level to say – going to a picnic in a park or Midsumma Carnival. Not that these aren’t important because they are a chance for people to come together and celebrate and feel safe.

“When you come out on the street it is a public display of our community. There certainly is a buzz and an excitement about closing the roads, hitting the streets and having the chance to display the whole gamut of community groups and individuals.” 

Midsumma Pride March

More recently, Pride March regularly attracts over 7000 participants and more than 45,000 spectators, in what has grown to be one of Melbourne’s largest street parades, even outshining Moomba festivities. 

Continuing this year in the spirit of community, visibility and activism, Pride March will once again transform Fitzroy Street in St Kilda into a glittering wonderland of sequins, pride and togetherness on Sunday, May 23. Led by the roaring charge of Dykes In Bikes, Boon Wurrung Elders and a Rainbow Aboriginal Float, it is an event not to be missed.

For more information about this year’s Pride March, check the Midsumma website. 


Read: Star Observer’s Festival Guide – Midsumma Edition 2021

Your One-Stop Guide To Midsumma: Watch out for our coverage of Midsumma Festival 2021, with previews of shows, profiles, reviews, photos and more.



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