Marching fearlessly

UNSW’s third appearance at Mardi Gras created a sense of empowerment for students and staff.

Mardi gras marchers lead the parade

UNSW’s Mardi Gras marchers were emblazened with a gold representation of the University’s mascot, Clancy the Lion. Photo: Nyasha Nyakuengama

A towering float of Clancy the Lion, the official UNSW mascot, led the way for more than 80 students and staff parading along Oxford Street for the ‘fearless’ 41st Mardi Gras.

“It was a true and generous collaboration with staff and students from Engineering, Art & Design and Built Environment,” UNSW event organiser Fergus Grealy says. “For the young LGBTIQ+ community, making networks within the University, especially finding commonalities with students they wouldn’t have much interaction with, was a really positive experience.”

The cross-faculty collaboration marks the third year that UNSW has participated in the annual parade.

“It was a really heart-warming experience. We were able to see the tangible and positive impact it had on the student community – they were really empowered,” Mr Grealy says.

“We want to make sure students feel they are heard and respected and are our partners. I think this was a good example of that.”

The student-led initiative is supported by the Division of Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) – the advocate for a sense of belonging for all staff and students on campus.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Equity Diversity and Inclusion, Professor Eileen Baldry says Mardi Gras is a platform for the University to engage in conversations about the challenges facing the LGBTIQ+ community.

“Our participation is both a symbol and a genuine activity that signals our commitment to that group of students and staff,” Professor Baldry says. “It is one of the key ways we can show our support for the LGBTIQ+ community and celebrate with them.”

Initiatives pioneered by the Division draw attention to a range of community issues, aiming to start conversations and lead debates on campus and in the wider community.

Five new Diversity Champions commenced in January 2018 to make change in equity, diversity and inclusion as part of the Division’s key priority to make UNSW a place for everybody.

The Division also offers training to the community – educating individuals on disability, flexible work and women in leadership, among other resonating topics.

“The end goal for the Division is for inclusivity, diversity, respect and equity to be the normal way that the University works – these behaviours shouldn’t be considered remarkable any longer,” Professor Baldry says. “The more equitable, diverse and inclusive we become, the more innovative and extraordinary research and teaching we will have.”