Events in NSW celebrating LGBTQIA+ culture
From kicking up dust in the desert to Sydney’s Mardi Gras, Pride festivals and inclusive events for the LGBTQIA+ community have grown beyond their city roots – and everyone is invited to the party.
Sydney’s Mardi Gras may have been the first mainstream LGBTIQ event in NSW, but it’s been joined by a whole host of absolutely fabulous celebrations – in places as remote as Broken Hill and as balmy as Lismore.
With inclusivity and a sense of belonging at their heart, these seven events celebrate the state’s wonderful diversity – and invite everyone to come along and kick up their (stiletto) heels.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
What began as a show of community strength has evolved over four decades into a two-week festival of LGBTIQ culture, creativity and resilience. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (held across February and March) is a world-class event that includes a film festival, a fair day at Victoria Park that attracts some 80,000 people, comedy showcases, critical discussions and salons, as well as fringe events, parties and club nights.
The festival highlight is the iconic Mardi Gras parade, held on the first Saturday in March. Thousand of flag bearers, dancers and performers march down Sydney’s Oxford Street from Hyde Park to Moore Park, with hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the route. In 2022, the event will be temporarily moved to the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Broken Heel Festival, Broken Hill
Bringing a little diva to the desert, the Broken Heel Festival celebrates this outback town’s star turn in the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The giant silver stiletto that emboldened a thousand drag queens was gifted to the Silver City, and no trip here would be complete without paying homage to it at The Palace Hotel (which also starred in the film).
The festival kicks off with a pre-party at The Palace, and continues with a weekend of events (scheduled for 24-28 March 2022 and 8-12 September 2022). Try the glamorous glamping at the local showgrounds, take in the drag shows and don’t miss the festival highlight, the Main Drag in Drag parade, which includes events such as the much-loved handbag toss.
Newcastle Pride Festival
Supporting the Newcastle, Hunter and Lake Macquarie LGBTIQ community, the Newcastle Pride Festival debuted in 2018 and is scheduled for October 2022. Don a mask for the Masqueerade Youth Prom, rehearse with the Pride Choir and colour co-ordinate a rainbow of your best Lycra for the 1980s-themed family pride bike ride around Lake Macquarie. Along with an interactive screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there’s also Newcastle Pride’s signature Fair Day event, as well as Pride by Night and an Eat to the Beat brunch, with drag performances and DJs.
Tropical Fruits NYE Festival, Lismore
One of NSW’s strongest LGBTIQ organisations, Tropical Fruits, has been throwing fabulous parties in the Northern Rivers region since 1988. Based in Lismore, the organisation runs a calendar of iconic events throughout the year, but none shine as bright as the New Year’s Eve Festival. There’s a little something for everyone: sun seekers can beat the heat at the pool party, there’s a parade and soiree and, for those who stay up all night welcoming in the new year, a recovery cabaret the next day.
Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras
In the local Wiradjuri language, Wagga Wagga means place of many dances and celebrations, and while the city’s Mardi Gras might be for one night only, it manages to be one of Country NSW’s biggest parties of the year. Set to run on 12 March 2022, the signature parade and march sees a procession of 50 fabulous floats head down Baylis Street. And while the parade attracts the crowds, not to be missed is the energetic after-party at Victory Memorial Gardens, featuring performances, DJs, drag queens and dancing. Lots of dancing.
Coastal Twist Arts and Culture Diversity Festival, Central Coast
The Central Coast’s inaugural LGBTIQ arts and culture festival, Coastal Twist, was held in 2019 and, after unexpected crowd numbers and an enthusiastic local response, the event looks to be ongoing (running once again in January 2022). Along with parties and a carnival, the festival will also host live music in a bunch of coastal towns, as well as have a dedicated youth area, a pupparazzi pooch parade and drag story time for kids. Bring a beach umbrella and sunscreen for the beachside picnic day, featuring the world’s first LGBTIQ longboarding event, competition volleyball and Lifesavers with Pride lifesaving demonstrations.
Rainbow on the Plains Festival
In south-west NSW, the Rainbow on the Plains Festival has brought a little pride and glitter to the town of Hay. The regional festival started small in 2019, but attracted folk from all over the region and has become an important event encouraging social inclusion in the Riverina. Set to run over three days on the last weekend in November 2022, Rainbow on the Plains is growing into a festival that covers arts, culture, music, dance and sport. Events include a rainbow brunch and picnic day, a fair day and masquerade dance party, as well as the key event, a street parade through Hay’s town centre.