Staff ready to march with Pride

As WorldPride launches in Sydney, we meet the staff who have been working behind the scenes to create the Department’s first-ever float for Sydney Mardi Gras.

Image: Getting creative: It's been all systems go ahead of Mardi Gras and WorldPride.

It's a sunny Saturday morning and representatives from the NSW Department of Education are geting creative with piles of coloured cardboard, rolls of fabric, paint, glitter and glue sticks.

The staff are busy making decorations, costumes and props for the Department’s first-ever float in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on 25 February.

“It’s been a dream of mine to march in the departmental float and be part of the creative team that brought it all together,” Damien McCabe, one of the event organisers, said.

This weekend, the Department will join more than 200 floats and 12,500 marchers for the world-famous Mardi Gras parade that coincides with this year’s WorldPride Festival.

Under the slogan ‘Together we Thrive’, the Department’s float will feature a Tree of Connection with decorations that represent all peoples, those participating in the parade and supporting from afar.

The float will be followed by 80 staff dressed in costume led by diversity champions Secretary Georgina Harrisson, Deputy Secretary, School Performance Murat Dizdar, Chief Financial Officer Sally Blackadder and Chief People Officer Shaun Ruming.

Diversity and Inclusion team member Christian O’Connor said marchers were selected through a ballot system that ensured representation across teaching and corporate staff, and staff from diverse backgrounds.

Those not selected to be involved in the march but still keen to participate have been invited to join in the fun by attending the weekend float-building workshops.

Nicola Marshall will not be standing on the float, but has lent a hand in its creation.

“I’m just really happy to be here to support,” Nicole said, while painting circles and lines on a large banner.

Designed by Emily Lloyd, a Wiradjuri artist and former public school student living on Wonorua and Awabakal country in Newcastle, the banner represents the power of connection.

“High school is a critical place for young people,” Emily said.

“It can be a great place, but it can be a really hard place too, and art can help with that.”

Image: Big and little: The large circles represent high schools, and the smaller circles represent primary schools. Each is surrounded by people – teachers, school staff, corporate staff and students – and are linked by pathways dotted with meeting places, explains Wiradjuri artist Emily Lloyd.

Stephanie Mora, SSO Dulwich High School of Visual Arts and Design, and Arncliffe West Infants School teacher Owen Ikin helped out by working on the Tree of Connection, wrapping sequined rainbow fabric around the trunk.

“The Tree of Connection illustrates how everyone in the Department is interconnected through our commitment to lifelong learning,” Owen said.

Stephanie said visibility was important.

“The float promotes a deep commitment, on the Department’s part, to cultivating an inclusive culture wherein LGBTQIA+ communities are celebrated and represented,” Stephanie said.

Owen said the float sent a strong message.

“I wouldn’t have dreamed of this happening 10 years ago when I first started teaching. This sends a message to anyone watching the parade that the Department is backing its LGBTIQA+ staff," Owen said.

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