Meet Mel Schwerdt and Brandon Bear: The New Co-Chairs of Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras

Meet Mel Schwerdt and Brandon Bear: The New Co-Chairs of Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras
Image: Supplied

Mel Schwerdt and Brandon Bear are the newly chosen Co-Chairs of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) Board.

Bear and Schwerdt come with prior experience, both have served as Chair before. Schwerdt previously served as co-chair along with Jesse Matheson from 2020 – 2022 and Bear served on the SGLMG Board from 2013 – 2018. In 2022, Bear rejoined the SGLMG Board as a Director.

Bear currently works as the Manager of Sexuality and Gender Diversity Program at St Vincent’s Health Services. He also is on the Board of the NSW Association for Youth Health. He started working with SGLMG as a volunteer back in 2005. 

Schwerdt has a Master of Business, as well as degrees in justice administration, accountancy, law and project management. She also has over 25 years of experience in public service and private industry.

Bear: An Absolute Honour

In a statement to Star Observer, Bear shared, “It is an absolute honour to be able to continue to work for the community and the board in the role of co-chair, and a privilege to work with Mel. Both of us know the amount of work that goes into the role, having done it before, but it’s truly worth it to be able to give back to a community and organisation that has given me so much.

“There is a lot of work to do at a Board level, as usual, to ensure that our staff and volunteers can deliver against our purpose – to champion LGBTQIA+ social issues through leveraging the power of arts, culture, partnerships and celebration, and I look forward to engaging with our members in a considered and thoughtful way over the next few months.”

Talking about her reappointment as Chair, Schwerdt expressed gratitude, saying “To have the board’s trust and be re-appointed as co-chair with Brandon Bear comes with a lot of responsibility to ensure our purpose is delivered to our members, communities and allies.”

She continued, “Being co-chair in the 2024 season to redefine ‘Our Future’, making space for people where we are valued and thrive without shame or fear would be a real achievement.

Mardi Gras Season Incoming 

Going from February 16 until March 3, this year’s Mardi Gras season is packed with over 100 community events, dance parties, theatre and music before climaxing on March 2 with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

“I am especially excited to check out the visual art, talks, film, comedy and theatre that make up our Arts program,” Bear said, when asked what he is most looking forward to this Mardi Gras season.

Bear and Schwerdt are also looking forward to the brand new Festival First Light event, which takes place on February 16. Festival First Light is an early morning event where Rainbow Elders from Gadigal, Bidjigal and Birrabirragal Land will conduct five simultaneous Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremonies.

Festival First Light “sees us holding Welcome to Country ceremonies on three traditional Aboriginal Lands as the sun rises on what is sure to be a truly spectacular few weeks for our communities,” Bear said.

Schwerdt shared, “The events that celebrate our young queer, trans, pioneers and icons are fabulous inclusions.”

She added, “I am looking forward to Queer Contemporary and Ultra Violet at the National Art School, and the parade on Oxford Street to hear the roar of the Dykes on Bikes, cherish our resilient 78ers, be welcomed by our First Nations and the political satire expressed on many of the floats.”

Bear and Schwerdt’s term runs till the end of 2024.

They replaced Giovanni Campolo-Arcidiaco, who’s term finished up on December 9 at the SGLMG Annual General Meeting.

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