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8 Aug 2022

Push to end police "decency" inspections of Sydney Mardi Gras attendees

Police are currently able to conduct a “visual inspection of those intending to take part in the Mardi Gras Parade so as to ensure that public decency is not offended.” 

In 2018 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) and the NSW Police signed an Accord that allows police to conduct public decency inspections of all participants prior to the start of the annual pride parade.
SGLMG is in the process of conducting a review of these Accords and is hoping to have a final version in the months ahead. 
According to the language in the Accord, the police are able to conduct a “visual inspection of those intending to take part in the Mardi Gras Parade so as to ensure that public decency is not offended.” 
The Police Accord does not specifically state what is meant by “ensure that public decency is not offended.”
The Accord only states that prior to the parade SGLMG and NSW Police will “consult with one another as to the standards of decency for participants.”
It goes on to say that if a person does not meet this standard “they will be given the opportunity to rectify the issue prior to the commencement of the event.”
NSW already has a law against public indecency, which states, “A person shall not, in or within view from a public place or a school, wilfully and obscenely expose his or her person.”
Charlie Murphy: Police Accord Should Be Torn Up
Charlie Murphy, a  member of queer activist group, Pride in Protest, told Star Observer, “The Police Accord should be torn up and Mardi Gras should finally get serious about facing the everyday violence the Police commit against Aboriginal people, and the people of the LGBT community.
“While Prides around the world are being made to kick police out of their Parades,  Mardi Gras are desperately doing all they can to pinkwash the police’s activity, selling out their own community with secret agreements that sanction the horrific drug dog program at the Festival and giving police powers to determine revellers self-expression with ‘decency checks’.”
According to SGLMG, “Boobs, bums, chaps, tops on, tops off, mesh, leather, rubber or full furry suit – all is welcome at Mardi Gras as a part of your self-expression. 
“But in line with the law, genitals are not permitted to be on display in public spaces, and that includes at Parade.
“The section on decency inspections in The Accord simply outlines that a representative from Mardi Gras will work with a senior police representative to conduct a general inspection before the Parade to make sure these guidelines are followed by participants.”
SGLMG is not aware of any non-LGBTQIA+ event, such as the St Patricks Day Parade and the Chinese New Year Parade, having similar accords with police, let alone decency inspections. 
NSW Police Provide a General Statement Rather Than Specific Answer
The NSW Police, when asked by Star Observer for comment on whether other non–LGBTQIA+ event participants are subject to decency inspections, provided a general statement rather than a specific answer. 
Assistant Commissioner Tony Cooke, Corporate Sponsor for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, said, “The NSW Police Force is proud to support the LGBTIQA+ community and remains committed to building and strengthening relationships through continuous engagement.
 “The Accord provides the framework for police and event organisers to work together to ensure a safe environment for all parade participants and attendees.
 “While police support an individual’s self-expression, under the law, the public display of any offensive material or a person’s genitals may constitute an offence.   
  “Police and event organisers work side-by-side to conduct visual inspections of each float to ensure participants not only meet the requisite standards under the law but also the expectations of Mardi Gras organisers. If these standards are not met, participants are provided the opportunity to rectify the issue prior to the start of the parade.”
According to SGLMG, there is no record of the decency inspections being enforced in the last five years. 
Review Overdue
“This is one part of why we are having the review of the Accord.”
They continued that the Accord has not been updated since its signing and, “it’s overdue.”
A review will be conducted using community focus groups in order to get recommendations and feedback.
This, SGLMG said, is the community’s opportunity to “raise concerns, note areas for improvement and provide feedback on what’s working well, which will inform how we negotiate changes to the Accord with NSW Police.”
Pride events in San Francisco and New York are not subject to decency inspections. The Folsom Street Fair even states, “Nude is not lewd at our events.”

In 2018, the organisation that runs the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras - SGLMG - and the Sydney police signed an agreement that allows the police to conduct "public decency" inspections of all participants prior to the start of the city's annual pride parade.

According to the agreement, the police are able to conduct a “visual inspection of those intending to take part in the Mardi Gras Parade so as to ensure that public decency is not offended.” What that means in practice is not specified, so it gives police enormous power - subjective power - to determine what is acceptable at Mardi Gras.

The agreement between SGLMG and the police is in addition to the state's existing public decency laws, which prohibits people from "obscenely" exposing themselves in public.

It's understood that no other major events in Sydney are subject to the same sort of public decency agreement, so this is a police intervention that is specifically targeting the LGBTQ community.

Pressure is mounting on SGLMG to end this level of police involvement in the event.

What’s life like for LGBTQ people who live in Australia?

What’s life like for LGBTQ people who live in Australia? Let's take a look at some of the key equality indicators.

Is it legal to be gay?

Yes. The United Kingdom invaded the continent we now know as Australia in 1788. The colonies that they established inherited their laws from the UK – including the Buggery Act of 1533 that made sodomy a crime punishable by death.

Over time, the colonies developed into states, and a federation was created so that they could operate as one country.

Sodomy remained a crime punishable by death until 1949 (some states removed it earlier than others).

Being gay remained a crime in Australia until 1997 (although some states began the repeal process in 1975).

It is now legal to be gay in Australia.

Is there anti-discrimination legislation in place?

Yes. Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation was implemented across all states in Australia in 2013. Prior to that, the anti-discrimination protections had been evolving (from around 1986) but had been fragmented.

Is there marriage equality?

Yes. Following a public vote in 2017, Australia has embraced marriage equality.

What’s life like for LGBTQ people who live in Australia?

While there are still isolated incidents of homophobia and anti-gay violence, Australia is a good place to be gay.

You will find gay people living openly in communities across the country (not just the larger cities), and media representation of LGBTQ characters is generally positive. There are numerous Pride celebrations held across the country.

However, LGBTQ people from Indigenous communities have poorer health outcomes and face additional barriers to living openly.

Reader's Comments

1. 2022-08-08 23:13  
I feel that should be in place all the time, have you seen the state of some of the girls that go out of a week end...? you don't know if their dressed or undressed. It works both ways not just with a gay parade.
2. 2022-08-09 10:34
What? Bigotry on Fridae? People should be allowed to walk stark naked all the time. It will become mandatory anyway sooner or later, given the current drive to extreme climatic conditions.

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