It’s become one of the must-see events on the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee) Week calendar. Last year eager punters had to be turned away at the door.

OutBlack — Australia’s longest-running Indigenous GLBTIQ and sistergirl group — will return with its annual song and dance event this Friday, July 8, hoping for another packed house to celebrate queer Indigenous culture.

OutBlack convenor Bryan Andy told the Star Observer the Indigenous support network has paved the way for acceptance of sexuality and gender identity in Victoria’s Aboriginal communities. This year it has joined forces with Aboriginal music body Songlines to host ‘We are Family’ at the Hi Fi bar to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

“At our last few gigs I’ve noticed there are young Aboriginal heterosexual footballers on the dancefloor having fun with our crew,” Andy said.

“I really like seeing that because football is such an aggressive, macho, potentially homophobic world in many respects and it’s really great to see we’re breaking down barriers.”

Andy said OutBlack, which was been operating for around 14 years, has come a long way.

“There are some awful examples of homophobia in Aboriginal communities across Australia … where I attribute it often to the imposition of Christianity or missionary activity,” Andy said.

“Whereas Melbourne and Victoria, they’re probably one of the most liberated when it comes to accepting and supporting. OutBlack’s certainly been a part of that.”
Andy said Songlines’ involvement is also an important step in bringing the queer and non-queer Indigenous community together.

“It’s about creating a space where everyone is part of it, we are family,” Andy said.

“It just lets everyone know we work together, we play together, we celebrate NAIDOC together.”

The event will showcase performers including hip hoppers The Last Kinection, folk singer Lou Bennett, drag icon Constantina Bush and drag king The Chad.

Songlines artistic director Jessie Lloyd said the organisation had contacted OutBlack to become involved.

“I think [being GLBT is] definitely more accepted now than it used to be. A lot of progress has been made,” Lloyd told the Star Observer.

“This partnership with Songlines incorporates more people and the community who may not generally attend an OutBlack event.”

Longtime OutBlack member Jimi Peters, who will perform Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga numbers on the night as Poleeshya Pearl, said OutBlack was his “second family” when he moved to Melbourne from Shepparton.

“[OutBlack] helped me move into a different world down here,” Peters said. “I have a lot of friends but my community and my OutBlack community were my support.

“OutBlack has taught me how to be strong and true to myself.”

OutBlack and Songlines NAIDOC celebrations run from 7pm-2am. Tickets $10/$15. All welcome.

INFO: Pre-sale tickets via www.thehifi.com.au (+ booking fee) or call 1300 843 443.

Photo: Deon van den Berg

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