Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Reviews Controversial ‘Decency Inspections’

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Reviews Controversial ‘Decency Inspections’
Image: Image: Ann marie Calilhanna

In 2018 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) and the NSW Police signed an Accord that allows police to conduct public decency inspections of all participants prior to the start of the annual pride parade.

SGLMG is in the process of conducting a review of these Accords and is hoping to have a final version in the months ahead. 

According to the language in the Accord, the police are able to conduct a “visual inspection of those intending to take part in the Mardi Gras Parade so as to ensure that public decency is not offended.” 

The Police Accord does not specifically state what is meant by “ensure that public decency is not offended.”

The Accord only states that prior to the parade SGLMG and NSW Police will “consult with one another as to the standards of decency for participants.”

It goes on to say that if a person does not meet this standard “they will be given the opportunity to rectify the issue prior to the commencement of the event.”

NSW already has a law against public indecency, which states, “A person shall not, in or within view from a public place or a school, wilfully and obscenely expose his or her person.”

Charlie Murphy: Police Accord Should Be Torn Up

Charlie Murphy, a  member of queer activist group, Pride in Protest, told Star Observer, “The Police Accord should be torn up and Mardi Gras should finally get serious about facing the everyday violence the Police commit against Aboriginal people, and the people of the LGBT community.

“While Prides around the world are being made to kick police out of their Parades,  Mardi Gras are desperately doing all they can to pinkwash the police’s activity, selling out their own community with secret agreements that sanction the horrific drug dog program at the Festival and giving police powers to determine revellers self-expression with ‘decency checks’.”

According to SGLMG, “Boobs, bums, chaps, tops on, tops off, mesh, leather, rubber or full furry suit – all is welcome at Mardi Gras as a part of your self-expression. 

“But in line with the law, genitals are not permitted to be on display in public spaces, and that includes at Parade.

The section on decency inspections in The Accord simply outlines that a representative from Mardi Gras will work with a senior police representative to conduct a general inspection before the Parade to make sure these guidelines are followed by participants.”

SGLMG is not aware of any non-LGBTQIA+ event, such as the St Patricks Day Parade and the Chinese New Year Parade, having similar accords with police, let alone decency inspections. 

NSW Police Provide a General Statement Rather Than Specific Answer

The NSW Police, when asked by Star Observer for comment on whether other nonLGBTQIA+ event participants are subject to decency inspections, provided a general statement rather than a specific answer. 

Assistant Commissioner Tony Cooke, Corporate Sponsor for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, said, “The NSW Police Force is proud to support the LGBTIQA+ community and remains committed to building and strengthening relationships through continuous engagement.

 “The Accord provides the framework for police and event organisers to work together to ensure a safe environment for all parade participants and attendees.

 “While police support an individual’s self-expression, under the law, the public display of any offensive material or a person’s genitals may constitute an offence.   

  “Police and event organisers work side-by-side to conduct visual inspections of each float to ensure participants not only meet the requisite standards under the law but also the expectations of Mardi Gras organisers. If these standards are not met, participants are provided the opportunity to rectify the issue prior to the start of the parade.”

According to SGLMG, there is no record of the decency inspections being enforced in the last five years. 

Review Overdue

“This is one part of why we are having the review of the Accord.”

They continued that the Accord has not been updated since its signing and, “it’s overdue.”

A review will be conducted using community focus groups in order to get recommendations and feedback.

This, SGLMG said, is the community’s opportunity to “raise concerns, note areas for improvement and provide feedback on what’s working well, which will inform how we negotiate changes to the Accord with NSW Police.”

Pride events in San Francisco and New York are not subject to decency inspections. The Folsom Street Fair even states, “Nude is not lewd at our events.”

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2 responses to “Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Reviews Controversial ‘Decency Inspections’”

  1. I agree with Gay Cowboy, the more family friendly it is the more people will attend the parade – if it’s not family friendly they wont bother attending again.