First Nations Pride and a retrospective on LGBTQIA+ celebration at the Australian Museum
Learn more about Aunty Barbara McGrady photography of First Nation Sistagirls at Sydney Mardi Gras, relive the iconic 1994 exhibition 'Prejudice & Pride' and meet Progress Shark.
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Aunty Barbara McGrady
A proud Gomeroi/Gamilaraay Murri yinah (woman), Aunty Barbara McGrady is a leading photojournalist who has documented important social, political and cultural events over the last thirty years. Her photographs form a significant visual record of First Nations Peoples against backdrops of historical, social, political, and cultural change in Australian society, including strong, positive images that celebrate the LGBTQIA+ First Nations community.
In these photographs, Sistergirls and LGBTQIA+ First Nations performers are represented, together with the First Nations Float which has become an important part of Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrations.
These photographs were acquired by the Australian Museum thanks to a grant from the Patricia Porritt Collection Acquisition Fund.
Prejudice and Pride: Gay and Lesbian Communities exhibition
For the LGBTQIA+ community in Sydney, February becomes ‘our month’ – a time of celebration, reflection, conversation, and representation. For Sydney WorldPride, the Photographic Archives Digitisation Team present a unique collection of 35mm colour negative film documenting the 1994 exhibition Prejudice and Pride – Gay and Lesbian Communities, a small-scale exhibition showcasing the history, politics, culture and community support of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was planned by the Gay Solidarity Group in June 1978, as a morning demonstration on Oxford Street commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, USA. The demonstration ended with a violent police response, encouraging queer political activism for years to come. Now, Mardi Gras has grown to be a major cultural event in Sydney with associated events such as Fair Day, film festivals, and art shows.
In 1993-1994, the Australian Museum’s Rapid Response Program proposed for the Prejudice and Pride exhibition to run concurrently with the 1994 Sydney Mardi Gras. Two public programs were organised in conjunction with Prejudice and Pride, including a private evening viewing of the exhibition and a one-day seminar on queer rights in education.
The exhibition was developed in consultation with many community, political, arts and social groups from various queer communities, including the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Committee, who played a vital role in assisting the Rapid Response team with the exhibition’s content, which included: projected scenes from earlier iterations of the Mardi Gras parade and donated costumes; banners; posters; and more.
Increasing visitor understanding of the strong sense of community, which is part of Sydney’s gay and lesbian culture, and to emphasise and acknowledge the huge diversity within that culture and the greater queer community.
Increasing awareness of the queer struggle for acceptance and public acknowledgement of human rights.
Acknowledgement of LGBTQIA+
Acknowledgement of gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer contribution to the cultural life of Sydney.
Raising awareness in visitors’ understanding of the Mardi Gras festival with its role in linking arts, culture, politics, and social reform.
Prejudice and Pride marked the first occasion in which a major museum had been associated with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which was a matter of pride for all those associated with the Australian Museum. In the following years the Australian Museum would host a series of queer-focused exhibitions including Blak Beauty (1997-1998), Forbidden Love – Bold Passion: An Exhibition of Lesbian Stories 1900s–1990s (1997-1998), and Warrali Barrul (1998-1999).
The "Progress Shark" installation, part of Sydney WorldPride 2023 Rainbow City. The Australian Museum collaboration with artist George Buchanan to cover the Museum's giant Great White Shark with the progressive flag is a powerful statement of support for LGBTQIA+ staff, visitors, and the wider community as well as paying tribute to the trailblazers of the first Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney in 1978.
The "Progress Shark" serves as a symbol of resilience, determination, and progress, reminding us that despite challenges and misunderstanding, it is possible to move forward and make meaningful change. Be sure to check out "Progress Shark" at the College Street entrance and get a selfie with the unofficial WorldPride icon.