Let Rainbow Babies and Kids march in 2020 MG Parade

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Rainbow Babies and Kids (RBK) has been denied access to the 2020 parade.

To the best of our knowledge Rainbow Babies [now Rainbow Babies and Kids(RBK)] has been around for roughly 20yrs. People have been going camping in Kiama for that long and marching in Mardi Gras Parade for about the same.  I’m not certain of years but I know there are 19/20yr old kids that were part of the original group so I’m extrapolating.

Parade means a lot to our kids. It’s one of a few occasions when being part of a LGBTQI family is celebrated. The fact that the crowd is there to cheer them for being part of LGBTQI family makes them proud. These kids have survived years of outing themselves at every school, dance class, football competition etc. as the children of LGBTQI parents. They have dealt with veiled homophobia from other kids and adults, politicians, schools, the general public and a general lack of acceptance. They have survived the national bullying campaign, otherwise known as the plebiscite, that saw outright vilification of their families. We even had a group of campers chalking “NO” outside our tents at Kiama during our camping event.

This year (Parade 2019) we had a bit of a hiccup with a faulty parade application and couldn’t march. It was devastating for us and our children but we thought it would only be for one season and we’d never make that mistake again. We had a few emails from one of the staff of parade in October this year just before applications open we and assured them we were being super careful and had applied for our two groups - Camping and RBK separately so we could hopefully get all our people on a float this year and not have to run a lottery and turn people away as we’ve had to do in the past. The person who emailed us was obviously expecting the same outcome as us. They have always been super helpful and supportive.
We never expected to be knocked back for Parade 2020. Why would a grass roots community group for kids, that has marched for more than 15yrs, be turned away?
We asked Mardi Gras for feedback and this is what they said:

From: Parade <Parade@mardigrasarts.org.au>
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 2019 at 4:34 pm
Subject: Re: Rainbow Babies and Kids Australia float

Thank you for your request for further feedback.
Each year we continue to receive a growing number of applications, all seeking to be part of our Parade. The number of people applying far exceeds the available capacity of the Parade. Our process is to ensure that LGBTQI Community groups are given priority access to the Parade. We wish we could have everyone join us on Parade night, it’s just not possible.
We assess each application based on the selection criteria to score all applications in a first-past-the-post manner resulting in an initial result. The number of participants applied for in each application, once accumulated, dictates a cut-off point below which other applications are unsuccessful in the first round.
To continue to ensure that the Parade remains a platform for visibility, incorporates opportunities for thought leadership and public discourse on social justice issues whilst still delivering a world-class event that engages, entertains and inspires; applications were again reviewed through this lens.
Contributing reasons to your application being unsuccessful include:
• You are an LGBTQI organisation who has past parade exposure and your application was withdrawn to allow the opportunity for a new or emerging LGBTQI community application or an applicant who has not participated more recently;
• We were oversubscribed with similar community or thematic representation to that of your application, your application was lowered in favour of other under-represented community or thematic applicants

Ways to improve your opportunity in future are:
• Creative concepts that align clearly and strongly with the Festival Theme – attending our Community Workshop Creative Ideas Day for 2021 submissions may be a way to improve your creative offering, particularly in cost effective ways for community organisations;
• Stronger articulation in your application, of your benefit and relevance to LGBTQI communities; how Parade participation allows you to go beyond your business-as-usual diversity and inclusion action plan;
• Collaboration and or consolidation of concepts and representation with other similar focused community groups or organisations.

We would like to thank you for the time and effort you have put forth in submitting your 2020 parade application. We look forward to receiving application from you for future parades.
For information on our Community Workshop Ideas session during the submission period, please subscribe to our newsletter. We also recommend you join the Parade Community group on Facebook for additional support.
Please don’t hesitate to engage with us prior to submitting your application next year.
Once again, thank you for your interest and time to apply for a place in the SGLMG Parade. We appreciate the valuable work and community engagement done by you and so many other groups to help promote inclusivity, diversity and support for LGBTQI people.

Parade Team

We are gobsmacked that children are so “overprescribed” that “past parade exposure” is to be punished in favour of allowing newer groups to emerge. Parade is a visible, active, physical acceptance hug from the world to our kids. Our kids’ tradition of celebration and joy.

We are gobsmacked that RBK needs stronger articulation of our benefit to the community. Really?!? Building peer groups to support resilience in kids is not enough? Doing it for 20yrs is not enough?

WE are gobsmacked that we should align ourselves more closely with the theme when it was “What Matters”. We addressed the theme with “Everyone Matters” and what could possibly matter more than our kids feeling accepted and celebrated and proud and loud and glittery and smiling and marching? As they have for close to 20 years.

We are two single mums who work and run RBK from our phones after the kids are in bed. Everything we do is volunteered willingly to support our kids. We don’t really have time or the resources to fund more elaborate costuming or floats on trucks or bigger stuff. It’s really hard to push a pram and do choreography. We just want to march with our kids and make that as accessible as possible so others can enjoy it too.

The idea of “It’s all about the kids” has guided our experiences and our camping/ parade efforts have deliberately been built quite simply around the kids’ enjoyment. Also, as our ethos is to make events as accessible as possible to families already marginalised, we have deliberately chosen to plan our events to be free, or as cost effective as possible, and have always sponsored families to attend our events to make sure no one was denied the chance to participate. For parade, kids want to ride their scooters when they’re little (and high five the crowd!) and walk with their families as they grow up. We have simple costuming that children can wear comfortably and, for the last few years, a simple message of solidarity with our first nations people was pinned to the back. A gentle reminder, to viewers of parade, of the protest roots from which the parade sprung. Affordable and stress free costuming.

Up until 2016, because we had such young children with us, we had usually led the community floats ( straight after first nations/ MG official floats/ sponsors/ army etc.) getting us away as early as possible and making us a bit of a crowd favourite. The kids who’ve grown up in RBK have basically marched every year of their entire lives.
I’m not looking forward to telling my kids they can’t march, not because we made a mistake, but because Mardi Gras does not find us creative enough or new enough or interesting enough.

Can Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras please try to ensure that child focussed,  volunteer led, grass roots groups are still accepted in our Parade? Can the families that live it everyday be given space? Can the kids who marched bravely and showed up for the last 20 yrs be acknowledged as important to our community? Can Rainbow Babies and Kids please be allowed to continue our tradition of marching proudly with our community?

Thank You for your support.                                                                                        Simone Curry and Louise Hammond                                                                          Rainbow Babies and Kids