The 2016 PrideFEST was officially launched on Friday at a VIP event held at the State Theatre Centre.
Among the guests were the Leader of the Opposition Mark McGowan MLA, Perth MLA Eleni Evangel, Lisa Baker – the member for Maylands, federal senator Dean Smith, and the City of Perth’s councilor Janet Davidson.
The festival which kicks off on Friday November 11th and runs for 10 days has been described a jam-packed full of events, performances and activities.
Pride WA have described the program as one that will test boundaries and get people talking.
Organisers have declared that the festival will be one that makes Western Australians think about the real meaning of diversity and inclusion in contemporary society.
Opening the proceedings Pride’s Vice President Graham Lovelock noted that the organisation has undergone significant change in the last few years.
“Four years ago a handful of us got together to re-imagine Pride as an arts, cultural and community organisation. A plan was put in place to achieve that, a strategic review of the organisation was held and some work over the last four years has essentially achieved that.” Lovelock said.
Lovelock highlighted that the recent formation of Rainbow Rights WA, a new body that grew out of a forum held during last year’s festival, has allowed Pride WA to focus it’s efforts on being an arts based organisation.
“It really enables Pride WA, in the first year of it’s second 25 years, to really evolve as an arts, culture and community organisation.”
The organisation’s Senior Vice President Michelle Rogers told the crowd that this year’s festival would see the organisation meet it’s mission.
Rogers said Pride WA’s focus was to encourage the cultural expression, celebration and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and all people of diverse sexuality and gender living in Western Australia.
Rogers highlighted the festivals theme ‘#lovewins’ saying the festival was a great opportunity for the queer community and the wider public to come together and discuss the themes of inclusion and celebrating diversity.
The Pride WA Senior Vice President highlighted the festival’s major events including the ‘Happy Pride’ opening, the Saturday morning family picnic and the Pride Parade through the streets of Northbridge.
This year’s official Pride Parade after party will be held in front of the State Museum in the Perth Cultural Centre.
Labor leader Mark McGowan told the audience that he had enjoyed taking part in the parade last year, but admitted a commitment to attend his children’s school play might stop him from attending this year’s event.
McGowan noted that Labor’s member for Maylands Lisa Baker had made a significant impact last year when she moved a motion calling for the WA parliament to support marriage equality and call on the federal parliament to end their plan for a plebiscite.
McGowan said the success of that motion was a great achievement, though the Labor leader failed to mention that the WA parliament did not support the first part of the motion to support marriage equality, but rather just the section which called for the federal plebiscite plan to be dropped.
The Opposition leader said his party was committed to removing historical convictions for people charged for gay offences that are no longer illegal.
Saying Western Australian society had “come a long way” since homosexuality was decriminalised in 1989, McGowan reiterated his commitment to addressing historical convictions.
“We recognise that the laws that were in place in the lead up to that period were wrong, they were offensive.” McGowan said. “People who were convicted under those laws, the majority of whom are alive today, were convicted wrongly.”
McGowan said he remained committed to marriage equality. The Labor leader said he listened to all the arguments against allowing same sex couples to wed and said they simply didn’t stack up.
“A family is a family, love is love, let’s reflect the reality of life for many of our citizens and make sure people have equal rights to marry the person they love.” McGowan said.
The Labor leader said his party was committed to removing any remaining direct or indirect discrimination that LGBTIQ people face if he was successful in his bid to become the state’s Premier in March 2017.
McGowan also reiterated that a Labor government would be committed to continuing the Safe Schools Coalition anti-bullying program.
“There is obviously a campaign being run by some elements of the media against the safe schools program.” McGowan said, describing some of the media coverage as “quite vicious”.
“In Western Australia our commitment is that if a school wants to take up that program, even if there is Commonwealth support, we will support it at a state level.”
The Labor said he agreed with a program that aimed to remove bullying and promote inclusiveness.
“Bullying is a terrible thing, it has life-long consequences.” McGowan said. “It causes depressions, it causes drug abuse, it causes alcoholism, it causes all sorts of adverse consequences for people for reasons outside of their control.”
Pride’s President Andrew Barker thanked the organisation’s committee of management of Pride WA for their contribution over the last year in putting together this year’s festival.
Barker singled out the contributions of Vice President Graham Lovelock and committee member Marcus Remta.
Barker praised the work of Vice President Graham Lovelock and committee member Marcus Remta, as well as Senior Vice President Michelle Rogers, the group’s treasurer Colin McDonald and committee members Marry-Anne Wilson, Karron Swinn, Danny Tan and Fiona McGuire.
Pride WA also noted the support of festival sponsors including Lotterywest, the City of Perth, and Quality Press.
An increase of support from Lotterywest has also allowed more events in regional areas to be supported. Barker highlighted that this year there would events in Bunbury, Albany and Broome.
Eleni Evangel, the Member for Perth, was joined on stage by federal senator Dean Smith. The pair presented Pride WA with a funding cheque for $150,000 from Lotterywest.
Evangel said Pride WA had a strong team organising the annual event, and that many people didn’t realise how hard the team members worked behind the scenes.
The local member said the organisation’s strategic change that they’d implemented over recent years had seen PrideFEST become one of the major cultural activities within the city.
Evangel highlighted that all cheques from Lotterywest are personally signed and ticked off by the Premier, Colin Barnett.
“This is the Premier saying that he absolutely supports and acknowledges the work of PrideFEST by approving the $150,000 here tonight.” Evangel told the VIP crowd.
Eleni Evangel’s statement drew a mixed response among the crowd as many noted that the Premier has not contributed a statement to the PrideFEST program, nor is he believed to have attended any Pride events during his seven years in office.
Senator Smith said he was thankful to members of the local community who had voiced their support for his opposition to the government’s plebiscite plan.
“Can I thank the very many people in this room, and the people not in this room, who have sent me emails and made phone calls to my office, to support me in the decision I took to stand against my party and oppose the plebiscite.” Senator Smith said.
Senator Smith said he’d learned that when you become a member of parliament; “you put yourself out there, your open to all sorts of criticism and tough decisions come along.”
The senator said he was grateful that when politicians are faced with tough choices, the community does rally around them and provide support.
Senator Smith said many people provided him with advice and support, but singled out June Lowe from Gay and Lesbian Rights in Ageing in particular.
Speaking ahead of the government’s vote showdown over the marriage plebiscite Senator Smith said the parliament has been slow to respond to what the community wants, but he was hopeful that marriage equality was achievable.
“We must remember that a parliamentary vote on marriage is something that we’re agreed on, what people differ on is how we get to that parliamentary vote.” Senator Smith said.
Senator Smith said once the plebiscite was voted down it would be crystal clear that it would now be parliament’s time to support marriage equality.
Representing the City of Perth, Councilor Janet Davidson said the PrideFEST was important community event.
Delivering the final speech of the evening, Cr Davidson said the festival delivered significant economic benefits to local businesses.
“In 2015, we know that in terms of economics about two million dollars or more to Northbridge businesses, they absolutely adore it.”
Cr Davidson said the festivals committee of management was filled with fabulous people who had strengthened relationships among the WA business sector.
Noting her 19 years of service on the council, Cr Davidson said it was great to have a long running relationship between the city and the Pride organisation. Cr Davidson said this years festival had a diverse range of activities and there was “something for everybody”.
The Premier’s Office was contacted and asked to confirm if Colin Barnett has ever attended the Pride Parade, Fairday or any official Pride events during his time as Premier.