MELBOURNE’S annual Pride March drew an estimated 40,000 people this year and saw the federal Opposition Leader in attendance for the time in its 21-year history.

More than 190 groups and community organisations marched down Fitzroy St in St Kilda on Sunday, where politicians and community advocates spoke at length about the need to make marriage equality a reality in Australia.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who marched with his family alongside Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, said Pride March empowered the LGBTI community.

Bill Shorten Daniel Andrews

Premier Daniel Andrews marching with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. (PHOTO: Matthew Wade; Star Observer)

“I think the march is empowering, because too many people think that politics is decided behind closed doors,” he told the Star Observer.

“But this is an alternative view of change in our society, that individuals can make a difference.

“What I think this march does is give power to people and tells them that they count and can make a difference… the more that individuals feel they have a say in the running of their society, the better the society will be.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Midsumma Pride March 2016

Shorten added that there were still many issues faced by Victoria’s sexual and gender diverse community that needed to be addressed.

“The issue of violence is still an important issue, and discrimination remains an ongoing battle,” he said.

Earlier in the day, rumours spread that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would attend the march, but this turned out to be false, prompting Equality Minister Martin Foley to liken Turnbull to the character in Where’s Wally.

“It’s a bit like Where’s Wally – he might have been here, might not have depending on who you speak to,” he said.

Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale spent the day focusing on advocacy around marriage equality, and said that while Pride March was a celebratory day, there was also a lot of frustration present.

Richard Di Natale

Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale speaking about marriage equality at Pride March. (PHOTO: Daniel Bone; Star Observer)

“We know we have an opportunity to end discrimination in an important institution called marriage,” he told the Star Observer.

“But the fact is that we are still on track to have an expensive plebiscite where members of parliament won’t be bound by the outcome and where there’s the potential to bring out some of the worst elements in the Australian community.

“So you need to ask yourself whether the Prime Minister is going to show courage and leadership on this issue and stand up to the dinosaurs who have last century views.”

RELATED: Victorian Government to formally apologise to men convicted of consensual gay sex crimes

Shadow Equality Minister David Davis encouraged the government to continue its work in the area of LGBTI equality.

“We look forward to encouraging the new government to push as fast and as hard as it can on a range of different areas to ensure there is genuine LGBTI recognition,” he said.

At one stage during the march a group of activists staged a peaceful sit-in that disrupted the event for a brief period of time.

pride march

A group of activists staged a sit-in, disrupting Melbourne’s Pride March for a short period of time.

In a statement, the activists said their aim was to draw attention to the large corporations present who were using Pride March  “to pinkwash their oppressive practices”.

Many onlookers sprayed the activists with water and verbally abused them, before the police created space for the march to proceed around them.

General Manager of People and Products at NAB, Stephen Barrow, said it was a shame the sit-in happened.

“They were clearly upset and trying to make a point about something, but they only held up the march for about five or 10 minutes,” he told the Star Observer.

One of the core themes at this year’s march was ending biphobia, and Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Goldner said for the most part, the march was positive.

“I think we did get a lot of positive feedback to the signs we’d made, but I have still heard of a few biphobic chants,” she told the Star Observer.

“But overall, there was a huge police contingent and a huge youth and schools contingent which is so positive.

“That’s the highlight of the day for me, that continued growth, because it’s really good for visibility and connectedness.”

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Midsumma.

PHOTO GALLERY: Midsumma Pride March 2016

RELATED: Victorian Government to formally apologise to men convicted of consensual gay sex crimes

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