3 Oct 2022 By AWAY IN STYLE

NSW’s Must-See LGBTQIA+ Sites

Sydney: As leading LGBTQIA+ advocates from around the globe are set to make history at Sydney WorldPride’s Human Rights Conference on March 1-3, take inspiration from Sydney and NSW’s sites of LGBTQIA+ joy, activism and community. Uncover the beginnings of Australia’s gay liberation, wander the world-famous ‘Golden Mile’ and find your community as history continues to be made in NSW’s LGBTQIA+ bars and spaces.

Australia says ‘Yes’ to marriage equality

After a three-month voting period via postal survey, on 15 November 2017 Australia learned that the public had voted in favour of marriage equality. While same-sex marriage wasn’t legalised until 9 December, the day was marked with celebrations and proposals across Sydney, including an impromptu parade down Oxford Street.

Thousands gathered in Surry Hills’ Prince Alfred Park on the day of the announcement; visit this special site and wander the rainbow walking path on the lawn, re-named Equality Green, created in 2019 to commemorate the moment. To celebrate the result, street artist Scottie Marsh painted a mural of ex-Prime Minister (and anti-same-sex marriage campaigner) Tony Abbott marrying himself in nearby Redfern, on the corner of Pitt and Redfern Street – you can still snap a photo in front of it today.

As one of the world’s leading LGBTQIA+ cities, Sydney’s queer history and culture runs deep and remains strong. Learn more about it at the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights conference, a three-day event where 60 local and international speakers will come together across panels, interactive workshops and more to create impactful change around LGBTQIA+ injustices and issues.

Trevor Ashley delighting the crowds at the GLITTERBOMB Saturday Night Dance Party during the Broken Heel Festival at Palace Hotel, Broken Hill.

The First Mardi Gras

It started with a truck blasting Ode to a Gym Teacher and Glad to be Gay, trailed by a growing group of LGBTQIA+ people dancing and chanting “out of the bars and into the streets!”.

In commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, LGBTQIA+ Sydneysiders rallied down Oxford Street on the night of June 24, 1978 — as they reached the city, Darlinghurst Police confiscated the truck playing the music. Two thousand people marched towards Kings Cross, which was the first LGBTQIA+ friendly area in Australia, and were met with police brutality. Fifty-three people were arrested across the night, prompting an annual Mardi Gras march to demand equality.

Later moved to the warmer month of March, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade is now one of Sydney’s most famous events, with an estimated 500,000 people attending in 2019 to celebrate LGBTQIA+ pride and progress. Held during Sydney WorldPride in 2023, it’s set to be the biggest and brightest yet, with over 200 floats and plenty of free viewing areas along Oxford Street, as well as premium viewing spaces.

The birth of Oxford Street

While homosexuality wouldn’t be decriminalised in NSW until 1984, Oxford Street in Sydney has been home to gay clubs since 1969 with Ivy’s Birdcage and Capriccio’s. Through the ’70s and ’80s, these spaces — mostly owned by Dawn O’Donnell, who identifies as lesbian, able to run her venues through nefarious connections — were among the few in Australia where the LGBTQIA+ community could be themselves

Oxford Street and Darlinghurst remains a place of pride and the heart of the queer community in Sydney. Countless clubs have come and gone across the decades, but the ‘Golden Mile’, named for its glitter and glamour, remains as vital as ever. Head out for a night of dancing at iconic LGBTQIA+ clubs like Universal Sydney and Stonewall Hotel or at Palms’ underground disco bunker; catch a drag production at The Oxford Hotel; enjoy the sunshine at The Colombian’s recently refurbished rooftop; or hit up the Sunday sessions at The Beresford Hotel, which everyone calls ‘the Bero’.

And in the daytime, explore community hubs like The Bookshop Darlinghurst, home to a wealth of LGBTQIA+ literature and resources for more than 40 years, and House of Priscilla, the one-stop shop for all things drag. Learn more about the area’s history with a self-guided walking tour, or head on a journey through historic streets with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of kooky ‘nuns’ and queer historians.

Australia’s first mainstream LGBTQIA+ film

While The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert wasn’t Australia’s first film about LGBTQIA+ people (that goes to 1970 film The Set), it arguably remains our most iconic and beloved – and a fantastic primer if you’ve never visited the Australian Outback before.

The 1994 film, starring Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, tells the story of three touring Sydney drag queens en route to Alice Springs, and was mostly filmed in outback mining town Broken Hill. Embracing the film, the town hosts the annual Broken Heel festival in September, where Australian drag excellence flock to the desert for four days of non-stop performance. The town has a thriving drag scene all year round: stay in the Priscilla suite at The Palace Hotel (which was featured in the film) and attend a drag bingo night or karaoke night. And in Sydney’s inner west, the second heart of LGBTQIA+ culture in Sydney, The Imperial Hotel pays tribute to the film’s opening scene, which was filmed in their front bar, with their Drag N’ Dine performances.