Star Observer asked Ann-Marie Calihanna to photograph six community floats and ask participants what matters to them. 

Ann-Marie Calihanna

These portraits convey the inspiration and importance of continued visibility worldwide. In all our diversity and beliefs our iconic community always strives for inclusivity.

What matters is we live in a world that allows our diversity and visibility. Everywhere. 

We need to stop the backward steps of our governments towards equality, ensuring the freedoms we fought for are not lost and the impact of our voice for social justice in our community is heard. We cannot afford for our voices to be silenced and its important that Mardi Gras remains the platform of political and creative expression that enables this.

And we need a world to do that! We are feeling what really matters the most right now! What matters is our governments and all of us, start to act on our earth’s critical needs, preserving our natural resources, saving our planet rather than mining it or allowing it to burn and evaporate. We all play a part.

Personally, for me, we must protect and continue to help all the animals that make up our natural ecosystems. So our world can start to re-generate again. To re-balance so it all works together. The loss of life has been catastrophic and what matters now is that we all come together to fix it. To save it. These natural ecosystems are important, and critical, to save all of us, to ensure there is a world for the next generation, for all of our futures. 

Ann-Marie is one of Sydney’s most prolific photographers remedying the historic invisibility of queer culture. For over 15 years she has worked with the Star Observer and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, capturing everything from parties to parades to rally’s to protests and celebrations.

She is an Honorary Bear, an ACON Community Hero nominee, Mardi Gras lifetime Achiever, and been awarded by the NSW Police Force for achievements within the LGBTIQ community. Her work has been shown in major gallery’s and museums across Australia and published in most media. 

In her spare time, she rescues abused and abandoned cats and lobbies for the mandatory de-sexing of domesticated animals.

Ann-Marie Calihanna (image: Ann-Marie Calihanna)


Kink4Life is organised by Fetish Australia. It has been coordinated by current and recent fetish titleholders around Australia. We are  providing a great opportunity for different fetish communities from across the country to work together to form a kinky and sexy float. The float is made up of kinksters from across Australia, and overseas, going against the censorship of kink, sex and the dominant/submissive dynamic.

When asked ‘What matters?’ our response is ‘kink’! Kink is part of our lifestyle and it is something that will be here for the rest of our lives. We are on the constant pursuit  of expressing our kink because we feel our true selves when in kinky environments. 

The ‘Kink 4 Life’ float is representative of the LGBTQI community because the expression of our lifestyle  continues to be censored and suppressed. It is important to be able to have freedom of expression of our kink and not be censored by any outlets. This expression allows for folx of the LGBTQI communities to improve their well-being by being able to show who they are and take pride in themselves.

So keep an eye out for our float on the parade route! You will know it is us because you will be drawn into the action happening on the truck. It is a shame you won’t be able to see very much of what is happening due to it all being censored. However, we are sure our marchers who will all be decked out in their best fetish gear will not disappoint you. 

Kink4Life by Fetish Australia (image: Ann-Marie Calihanna)


Bi+ communities around Australia are building momentum, strength and visibility.

However, for people who experience multi-gender attraction, stigma and erasure remain pervasive challenges. We are frequently told we’re confused or that we need to “pick a side”. We are thought to be promiscuous and greedy. Our validity is questioned. Our sexuality is assumed based on the gender of our partner. These harmful ideas can be seen across mainstream society and broader LGBTQIA+ discourse.

These challenges have monumental impacts on our mental health and wellbeing. Growing amounts of evidence indicate there is a higher prevalence of poor mental health amongst bi+ people than in lesbian, gay, or straight communities. Intersecting social categories such as race, cultural background, gender, age, ability, class, and geographical location can further compound these experiences.  

The good news is, we can take action to make a difference and one of the ways we can create change is through increasing bi+ visibility.  So this year, our community is coming together for the Mardi Gras float ‘Bi-Vis: Building Visibility’ and we’re celebrating just how talented, diverse, and beautiful our community is.  Raising awareness about bi+ identities helps us push back on harmful stereotypes and expectations. It helps us combat feelings of isolation and shame within our own community. It can move us towards improving bi+ quality of life.   

In 2020, we’re donning the finest of hi-vis attire and we’re picking up the tools to build visibility.  We’re creating spaces for meaningful and authentic representation. To the bi+ people out there, know that you are not alone.  Whether you are in the float, watching from the sidelines, or from home – this is for you. You matter and we’re here with you.

Bi+ Communities (image: Ann-Marie Calihanna)


‘For AI’

Chinese LGBTQI Float Group

With a straightforward intention of encouragement in self-acceptance and self-proudness, we started our journey with Mardi Gras five years ago. This is the third time we continue to use the same entry title ‘For AI’ to join the parade. ‘AI’ is the pronunciation of ‘love’ in Mandarin. The simple combination of language built an interesting and meaningful connection over the distance of geography and difference of culture.

The theme of Mardi Gras for 2020 is WHAT MATTERS. For us, love does matter, especially the ‘invisible love’ of the ‘invisible LGBTQI community’ in Chinese society, which brings us the power to stand out and go further.

As a Chinese LGBTQI group, we would like to create an atmosphere of belonging for each participant. Due to this initiation, from the entry title to the performance design, the wonderful elements of traditional Chinese style will be applied.

In 2019, ”Nezha”, China’s biggest-ever animated movie, has been shown in the major cities of overseas. The story is based on a very famous mythology of China. The major character was unaccepted and judged by everyone since he was born, but he wasn’t drowned by the negative influence or his cursed origin. He fought against his fate bravely for those who he loved. This story tells us the paramount truth ‘Only you can decide who you are’. We love the spirit delivered and the beautiful demonstration of traditional Chinese art. With the inspiration of this movie, we are eager to share the courage with everyone in our community and show our spectators the beauty of diversity. We believe, in long run, our efforts are able to help with the establishment of a LGBTQI-friendly Chinese society.

“For AI” by Chinese LGBTQI Float Group (image: Ann-Marie Calihanna)


The Bare-arsed Truth: Feeding the Climate Crisis” – PINK FLAMINGOS 2020

When the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras announced this year’s Parade theme of “What matters”, we knew we had to create a float about the climate crisis.

After the scary summer we have been through, nothing can matter more than the capacity of the Earth to sustain life.

At the P.I.N.K. F.L.A.M.I.N.G.O.S. (aka The Politically Inspired, Non-violent, Kind & Fabulous Lgbtq+ & Allies Marching In Notorious Group Of Satirists) Headquarters, we are deeply concerned that governments, businesses and individuals are ignoring the climate crisis. 




So, in our signature satirical style, we are giving you the ‘bare-arsed truth’.

Our concept is the Earth roasted on a giant BBQ spit, fuelled by gas cylinders representing the leading carbon-emitting countries. Australians, who love a good BBQ grill, are happily feasting and partying like there is no crisis to see. 

We are absolutely committed to being as carbon neutral as possible. We have sourced materials for the float that are both lightweight and biodegradable. Where we could not, we have either used the share economy or will reuse elements for our future parade entries. 

That ethos has been carried into the lighting, sound and costuming of the float, using battery power to illuminate our hired lighting elements and our sound. 

Our costumes are made from natural materials and will demand your attention as we walk towards you, and certainly leave a cheeky impression after we have passed by! 

Its Mardi Gras, so how can we share the ‘bare-arsed truth’ about the climate crisis without our bare arses exposed?! Its simply a must!

We wish you a Happy (and green) Mardi Gras!

Bare-Arsed Truth: Feeding the Climate Crisis by Pink Flamingos (image: Ann-Marie Calihanna)


Sydney Stingers Mardi Gras “What Matters”

Water polo may be our passion but when it comes to Mardi Gras, the Sydney Stingers love nothing more than to get dressed up in our cozzies and dancing all the way up Oxford St. The Stingers has grown over the last few years to get even bigger and more inclusive, and this is ‘What Matters’ to us. Each Mardi Gras Parade, we have created fun, fabulous and outstanding costumes that are a highlight for not only our marchers, but for everyone who watches us. We hope that this year, our float stands out even more than ever. 

Mardi Gras is a time of celebration for us, we encourage all our marchers to dance up the street being no-one but themselves. This is something we believe in for our club members and all people interested in joining the club. We hope our float sends the message of “no matter who you are, come join us and have fun”. 

When you think water polo, you think of water. Our float this year will have an underwater party vibe. We will be wearing our trademark swimwear and water polo caps but we will add some sparkles and colour to make it a bit more fabulous. We love looking great and dancing to the music and seeing the crowd clap and sing along. 

Mardi Gras is an important time for the Stingers and we can’t wait to be a part of another fabulous parade. Look out for us!

What Matters by Sydney Stingers (image: Ann-Marie Calihanna)


A Cock In A Sock In A Shock Jock

What Matters is that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade and festival continues to honour the 78ers’ legacy by offering unwavering support as platforms for Fearless protest, artistic expression and commentary on social issues affecting oneself or community despite forces outside our ranks, or in fact within, that attempt to silence us.

A cock in a sock in a shock jock (image: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)

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