PREMIER Daniel Andrews made no new announcements at Midsumma Carnival on Sunday, but reiterated his government’s commitment to a wide-ranging agenda of LGBTI-focused reforms.
Speaking to the crowd from the main stage at Alexandra Gardens, Andrews named his priorities for reform, including adoption equality, the forthcoming gender and sexuality commissioner, and plans to reverse the regressive changes to Victoria’s anti-discrimination law made by the previous government.
“We should never settle until every Victorian can feel safe and confident to be exactly who they are.”
Andrews also promised to advocate for marriage equality to his federal colleagues.
Speaking to the Star Observer after his address, the Premier acknowledged the need to balance competing interests around reform in an area like anti-discrimination law but said watering down of Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act by the previous government was a step backwards.
“This is one of those issues where you perhaps never please everybody, but we had a balanced outcome previously,” he said.
“Some wanted us to go further, some thought we went too far. That’s usually a pretty good indication that you’ve done reasonably well.
“We have to wind this back to where it was, and then again perhaps things will evolve further over time, but you should never go backwards.”
The day was marked by a decidedly political air, as the Premier was joined by parliamentary colleagues from all major parties. Minister for LGBTI Equality Martin Foley attended, as did his opposition counterpart David Davis and Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy.
Guy stated his support for Midsumma, and the opposition’s commitment to Victoria’s LGBTI community.
“My view as a Liberal politician is that where people are law-abiding citizens, then it’s for the government to stay out of their life,” he told the Star Observer.
“Labor’s made a lot of promises to a lot of people coming into government. They had 11 years, ending only four years ago, (to show) what they could have done for the GLBTI community here in Victoria.”
Concerns about the weather on the day proved unnecessary as the clouds broke after midday to deliver glorious sunshine and mild temperatures to the revellers, with estimates putting the crowd at 100,000 and festival organisers declaring the event a success.
Considered by many to be the premier event of Melbourne’s LGBTI calendar, dozens of community organisations turned out to put on a show.
The day also saw the first pop-up rapid HIV testing site at Carnival, organised through the Burnet Institute and the Victorian AIDS Council’s rapid testing service Pronto. Greater than expected interest in the pop-up rapid testing service saw organisers working hard to meet the high demand.
While the Premier was the biggest name on the main stage in terms of the day’s speeches, perhaps the most rousing address came from Midsumma “champion”, human rights campaigner and former president of the Australian Medical Association Kerryn Phelps.
Phelps praised the reforms in support of LGBTI Australians in recent years, but singled out adoption equality among issues still needing to be addressed in Victoria.
“Just as we have so much to celebrate we also have to recognise that any act of hate or discrimination in any part of the world also is an action against us,” she said, drawing huge cheers from the crowd.
“We stand with the Ugandan LGBT community still facing the possibility of a life sentence because of their sexuality. We stand with the gay men executed by ISIS this week by being thrown off a high-rise building.
“The world is not a safe place for many of us in the LGBT community. And so while we celebrate the gains we have made here in Australia, while we are fighting legitimately for full equality, others are fighting for their very survival. We stand with them as we stand up for ourselves.”
As the day ended thousands of Carnival attendees stayed for the free outdoor party T-Dance, with bands and DJs playing on the main stage as the sun went down.