Sydney Mardi Gras organisers vote to scrap police ‘decency inspections’

Organisers behind Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Australia have voted to throw out police-run “public decency inspections.”

The internationally-recognised annual LGBTQ+ event, which has been running since 1978, has held a deal with New South Wales police that allowed them to conduct visual inspections on those marching in the parade to “ensure that public decent is not offended.”

The deal, called the Mardi Gras Police Accord, was set up in 2014 to mark an understanding between police and event attendees following allegations of police brutality at the event in 2013.

Sydney Mardi Gras members have voted to scrap police “decency inspections”. (James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

According to the Mardi Gras Police Accord, a representative from Mardi Gras Sydney would work with a senior police representative to conduct inspections before the parade to ensure that genitals are covered up in public. 

It also ensures that Mardi Gras Sydney provides cultural sensitivity training and that organisers have input in police presence at their public events.

For years, the Accord had been seen as controversial among Mardi Gras attendees and the wider LGBTQ+ community, due to a general mistrust of New South Wales police.

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There have long been calls among local LGBTQ+ groups for the Accord to be scrapped due to a history of police violence against the queer and trans community.

Those groups were thrilled when, according to ABC, members of Mardi Gras Sydney voted to throw out the Accord at the Mardi Gras Annual General Meeting on Saturday (9 December).

The motion was put forward by activist group Pride in Protest, who have long campaigned for the arrangement to be torn up.

Activist groups like Pride for Protest have long called for the Accord to be scrapped. (Getty Images)

Originally, the motion had been opposed by the Mardis Gras board, who noted that “decency checks” had been replaced with “public nudity checks”, all of which were conducted in a “public environment.”

Around two-thirds of members approved the motion to scrap the Accord and its public decency checks, meaning that the Mardi Gras board must now consider the motion.

Pride in Protest spokesperson Riley Brooke had said, per QNews, that the vote was a “huge step forward” in their campaign against “police violence… historically and to this day.”

Commenting on the vote to scrap the Accord, a spokesperson for NSW Police told the publication that they remained “dedicated to supporting LGBTIQ communities and takes pride in its role as a community leader for inclusion and diversity”.

Their statement continued: “The NSW Police Force works closely with Mardi Gras organisers to ensure the safety and success of its events.

Kylie Minogue at Sydney Mardi Gras 2019
Around two-thirds of members approved the motion to scrap the Accord and its public decency checks. (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

“We look forward to continuing to work with Mardi Gras organisers.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Mardi Gras told ABC: “By law Mardi Gras, as with any major event, is required to have a police operation.

“What the Accord does is allows Mardi Gras to have input into planning for a police presence, and it also ensures any policing activity is appropriate to the scale and risk of the event and within a culturally informed framework.”

Still, the board must now consider the successful motion. It’s unclear as of yet whether or not decisive action will be made before next year’s Mardi Gras.

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