‘Fearless Express’ Mardi Gras float will promote the right to inclusion for people with disability
It’s the eve of one of Sydney’s – and Australia’s – biggest and most exciting cultural events; the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. This year’s parade takes the theme ‘fearless’ to represent the passion and resilience of the LGBTQIA+ community.
One of the floats in Saturday night’s parade will arrive in the form a train by the name of ‘The Fearless Express’. The Fearless Express brings together five disability organisations – Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA), the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), Women with Disability Australia (WWDA), Northcott, and People with Disability Australia (PWDA) – and highlights the barriers that make it harder for people with disability to enjoy all aspects of public life. Other service providers, including Autism Spectrum Australia and Life Without Barriers, will also have floats in this year's parade.
NDS spoke to People with Disability Australia’s President, Dr David Abello – who is a member of the 78ers, the original protesters from the first ever Mardi Gras in 1978 – about the significance of this year’s float and being involved in the biggest party of the year.
What does the theme of this year's float mean to you?
I think Fearless Express, a train, is a great metaphor for something that drives society forwards but doesn’t stop to let some people on. We will be demonstrating that we are part of sexuality and gender diverse communities and networks; that we are on that train. By being ‘out’, we promote the idea that people with disability should able to express their diversity without fear. The float’s theme of accessible public transport highlights graphically the everyday-ness of disabling environments in our lives. It dramatises the complexity involved for many in just getting somewhere, whether we are going to work or netball or a nightclub or to meet friends or lovers.
What does it mean for you to be involved in the parade?
I was one of those 78ers, who organised that day of protest and that first Mardi Gras in 1978. At the same time, people with disability were coming together to begin a fight against segregation in institutions and their exclusion from work and community life. The battle against control, medicalisation, morality, violence, abuse and discrimination was something that we had in common. Now, four decades later, I can celebrate where we have come to, celebrate changes in attitudes, inclusion, acceptance and recognition. I can celebrate the things we are yet to change, our future, where the Fearless Express might take us to next.
What would you like people to know about you and other LGBTIQ people with disability?
We are individuals, we are part of the LGBTIQA+ community, and part of the broader community.