Sydney, 1989. NSW Christian Right politician the Rev. Fred Nile led a cleansing march up Oxford Street, followed by several hundred Christian followers joining him in an anti-Mardi Gras bigot parade.
Happily, they came head to head with several thousand members and supporters of the LGBTIQ community, resulting in a reception Nile and his supporters wouldn’t soon forget.
Twenty-three years later and it’s obvious the Oxford Street cleansing didn’t work. The famous strip has fallen on hard times but to this day remains one of Australia’s well known LGBTIQ tourist destinations – and is still home to the nation’s most colourful community celebration.
Since this protest in 1989, the landscape has drastically changed. Once our community was faced with counter protests, but now right-wing conservatives struggle to gather more than a dozen people to the streets.
We now live in a time when the ultra-conservatives are more likely to access funding and attempt to wield political lobbying campaigns against the LGBTIQ community. One just has to look at the recent work of The Australian Christian Lobby and witness the power they have over certain political parties.
The battle for equality still has a long way to go here in Australia, with an increasing number of protests and rallies taking place. But we have an ever-growing number of supporters – the average Australian is now much more likely to be with us than against us.
It’s exciting times in Australia in the battle for equal rights. As we campaign it’s important to remember the paths previously trodden to get where we are today.
At times things can look bleak, especially in Queensland at the moment, but remember we have come a long way. So let’s not lose hope. This is a fight we’re winning.