Pride WA committee deserve praise for their achievements

OPINION

Back in 2011 when I was first announced as the new editor for OUTinPerth, one of the most frequently asked questions I received was “Will you bring back the ‘Letter to the Editor’ section?”, of what was then – a monthly newspaper.

My memories of OUTinPerth’s ‘Letters to the Editor’ page were not good. I recalled long drawn out and bitter disputes between community members that would drag on from month to month.

A monthly newspaper hardly allows for a speedy debate of any issue. A letter published in April would receive a retort in May, and maybe a follow up in June, leading to a condemnation from the other party in July.

But maybe it wasn’t as painful as I remembered… I was wrong. I looked through the archives as past editions of OUTinPerth, shOUT and The Westside Observer, there was month upon month of community dialogue. Today we’d label a lot of that back-and-forth as toxic debate, and some of it would likely be the subject of defamation lawsuits.

The most common topic of those long-drawn-out disagreements – Pride WA.

Working at OUTinPerth, and other community focused media outlets, I’ve had close to a decade and a half of working with Pride WA committees, associated events management companies, and different committee members.

Sometimes they’ve been filled with visions for the future, other times they’ve been ignorant of our own past. Sometimes we’ve been the best of friends, and other times less so – to the point I was asked to relinquish my membership of the organisation.

While other non-profit organisations have built up their resources over the decades and gained buildings, staff, resources and institutional memory, until recently Pride WA seemed to flounder.

Almost annually a new set of fresh faces have stood up to be on the committee of management, sometimes they didn’t last more than a few months. Some years after the conclusion of the parade only a handful of committee members would remain.

We’d often joke that while other organisations had buildings and staff, everything Pride WA owned would fit in a shoe box – if only they could remember who last had the shoe box.

Recently though Pride WA seems to have broken the cycle. In recent years the committee has retained members from year to year, the constitution has been changed to return the organisation to the ideals it was founded on, and for the first time it has staff, a building, and a long-term plan for the future.

Significantly, the management of the festival has been brought back in house, no longer is the knowledge of how to run the festival being lost with the change of the appointed event management company every few years.

They have recured a significant boost to funding via the City of Perth and through a dramatic increase in sponsorships. The Northbridge Piazza has been renamed the Pride Piazza, and they are beginning to return to having events not just during the festival in November, but throughout the year.

Tonight’s parade through the street of Northbridge sees the event return to a public location for the first time in three years, and it caps off three weeks of well attended events that have had great diversity.

There have been years in the past where the PrideFEST has consisted of Fairday, the Parade, and a bunch of stuff that was going to happen anyway given an additional Pride stamp for the festival. Not this year though, there have been art exhibitions, cooking events, sports days galore, music events, literary events, community discussions and so much more.

Fairday was the biggest outing we’ve seen yet, and they even managed to attract international music star Big Freedia – and presented it all free of charge.

Community members have expressed concern about disability access but working with Living Proud there has been more time and investment in this area that ever before, and it’s an initiative that’s sure to continue to grow in the future.

While there is a loud condemnation of the corporatisation of the pride movement, a very legitimate concern. The organisation has also begun to tighten up on which businesses can take part in events. A perusal of whose marching in tonight’s parade, compared to a similar list from just a few years ago shows there have been big changes.

Large events like PrideFEST cannot exist without significant funding. Insurance, government approvals, terrorism concerns, falling levels of volunteering and other factors make it a very different space to operate in today compared to the past.

Yet, Pride WA does have to make a decision about their association with resources company Woodside. Concern about their association was raised last week by The Greens, as well as many community members. It’s a topic that has been faced by many festivals in WA including the Fringe Festival, theatre and dance companies, and the Perth Festival. Pride is no different, they need to look at this before PrideFEST 2023. These are not Pride WA’s only flaws, there have been other mis-steps.

But for the 2022 outing, I say bravo, well done, and congratulations. Thank you to the hard-working staff and dedicated volunteers on the committee. Thank you to Choon Tan who has forged through unimaginable personal tragedy to deliver this festival.

Thank you to all the committee members – Happy Pride to you all.

Graeme Watson
Editor OUTinPerth


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