Premier signs Mardi Gras Festival Accord
The NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell has signed a new Mardi Gras Festival Accord, between Mardi Gras and NSW Police, aimed at ensuring a safe and welcoming experience for festival visitors and participants throughout the Mardi Gras season.
According to O’Farrell, The Accord is aimed at improving policing and event management at the festival.
“The signing of The Accord is very positive, and shows the commitment of the NSW Government and all involved to ensure the Mardi Gras remains one of the best festivals in the world” O’Farrell said.
To develop The Accord, Mardi Gras has worked alongside the NSW Police, ACON, the Inner City Legal Centre and the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby to develop strategies to ensure a consistent approach to policing throughout Mardi Gras.
“Together we have developed a set of initiatives to make Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras an even safer and more welcoming event for visitors, participants and Sydneysiders, said CEO of Mardi Gras, Michael Rolik.
Asked to explain the significance of The Accord, Rolik suggested it was groundbreaking in that it was an all-encompassing strategic plan for the festival.
“The thing that is significant is that it is strategic planning that encompasses the entire festival, not just the parade and party,” said Rolik. “It’s planning that encompasses a number of dimensions that is important to producing an event that is safe and welcoming."
Rolik said integral to the plan was an understanding of the nature of the event and communicating that to the wider community.
“Appreciating that not only is the Mardi Gras Festival incredibly important as a cultural festival for the gay and lesbian community, it is also an amazing event for Sydney that attracts millions of visitors.
“We want an event that is safe and fun and that members of our community can contribute to being safe. We also want to highlight you have a responsibility for who you bring. And how you behave yourself,” Rolik told SX.
NSW Police Force Corporate Sponsor for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Superintendent Tony Crandell, suggested the main change for NSW police will be in the briefing surrounding Mardi Gras.
“I think the major differences is the early briefing with the police. We’ve (Michael Rolik and NSW Police) developed an electronic briefing that will go out to police that are involved in ‘’Operation Tacoma’ (the code name for the party and parade). It’s important for the police to understand cultural differences and for them to understand what Mardi Gras is about, It’s explained what Mardi Gras is about and I’ve explained what my expectations are to the police."
Rolick described the briefing as a “true collaboration and partnership”.
“In terms of strategic planning on the night of parade – our planning is aligned. For example, the team leader looking after Precinct A, knows who their counterpart is in the NSW police force – so if they need the police they know immediately who that person is. Importantly, most of the police that will be working on the route and at the party and major events will come from Tony’s LAC – so they know the community.”
Mardi Gras co-chair Siri Kommedahl, said “I think the public will see this is a partnership and that at its heart it is there for the safety of everybody – but still recognising this is a unique celebration.””
Crandell told SX “Essentially you have to take into the account the history of the event and that it is a celebration of sexuality and diversity.”
Still Rolik said he had made clear to parade entrants in a briefing last week that full frontal nudity would not be acceptable at the parade. “There are rainbow families, rainbow children marching in the parade. There are children watching on TV, so that kind of behaviour would never be acceptable.”
Key components of the NSW Government’s Mardi Gras Accord include:
• Mardi gras and the NSW Police will jointly plan to ensure a consistent approach to policing that is appropriate to the scale, risk, cultural sensitivities and visitation outcomes of the Mardi Gras Festival.
• NSW Police and Mardi Gras will jointly plan, and from this NSW Police will determine appropriate policing levels, approach and scale of operations based on assessment of the risks presented. Police will ensure that enforcement occurs fairly, equitably and in accordance with appropriate standard operating procedures.
• Mardi Gras and other community organisations, along with NSW Police, will work together to provide cultural sensitivity education and training on working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities to ensure the Mardi Gras Festival provides a great experience for all participants and visitors.
• Temporary street barriers will be removed immediately after the Parade finishes, to allow Party attendees to easily move towards the Mardi Gras Party at Moore Park and assist Parade spectators to easily disperse, after the Parade ends.
• Community organisations will continue to assist Police to promote awareness and education that NSW laws regarding alcohol and illegal drug use will be enforced fairly and equitably during the Mardi Gras Festival and that the NSW Police will maintain a drug detection presence where appropriate.
For more information about Mardi Gras Festival www.mardigras.org.au