Queer students consider boycott of University Mardi Gras float

Ellie Rogers and Oliver Moore report

Sydney University’s first Mardi Gras float will be boycotted by groups of queer students, who are upset about the float being organised by the Sydney University Ally Network, which includes non-queer “ally” members.

Many queer students are choosing to remain on the Australian Queer Student Network (AQSN) float, due to concerns about the management-led float.

SRC Queer Officer Evan Jones told Honi no consultation was made with the SRC’s Queer Collective before the announcement of the float, alleging University of Sydney Union Queer Portfolio holder, Jack Whitney, ignored their concerns.

“We weren’t told anything about it. Jack posted on the Queer Collective [Facebook] page about it, people raised concerns about it, and then he went ahead with it all anyway.”

Attempts were made to secure a meeting with the collective in late December, but Jones said the decision has already been made by the time the meeting occurred and the collective “just weren’t listened to”.

Whitney told Honi the decision to enter a float with the Ally Network came from a “position of inclusion rather than exclusion”.

“Queer students and staff recognise that allies are part of the solution,” he said.

Ally Network student representative Andy Zephyr agreed, saying the campus queer community needed to invite and engage supporters in order to achieve their goals on campus.

“The University float is an opportunity for the University and [Ally] Network members to make an active and visible commitment to representing queer issues in the future,” she said.

While Jones recognised the role of allies in the parade, he said they “should be volunteering, not necessarily on a float”.

Members of the University’s queer community have also questioned whether it is appropriate for University management to enter a float into an event with a history of protest (the original 1978 festival was a protest calling for the repeal of anti-gay legislation).

SRC Education Officer Liam Carrigan told Honi he found the University’s decision to enter a float despite having broken up strike action on their campus by inviting riot cops “at best ironic and at worst revolting”.