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University to enter first ever float in Mardi Gras

Andy Zephyr reports

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The Ally Network of the University of Sydney is entering a staff and student float into the Mardi Gras parade.

While the University has previously endorsed floats organised by various student groups, this is the first time the University has led a float.

“This is a modern, exciting tradition,” University staff accessibility manager Penelope Pitcairn said.

This feat is not only a first for the University, but is a first for any tertiary education institution within the Group of Eight.

The float’s riders come from a variety of University communities, including four members of the University’s Senior Executive Group.

The Ally Network’s entrant will include around 75 marchers, a dance routine, and will feature a giant replica of the symbolic Jacaranda tree.

“During O Week, students and staff will be invited to write a message of inclusion for the LGBTQIA community and place that leaf on the tree” University diversity inclusion officer Louise Bannerman told Honi.

SRC Queer Officer Evan Jones is optimistic about the network’s intentions, but said the University needs to “get down on the ground and make change… rather than just on a superficial level”.

Jones told Honi the University should focus on issues “rather than simply focus on how diverse the university is”.

University Vice Principal (Operations), and Ally Network executive sponsor, Sara Watts, disagreed that a management-led Ally Network was superficial.

“The ability that I have to do those tangible, practical things is then augmented by the ability to actually raise the profile of this community,” she said.

The Ally Network was established by the University in 2015.

Issues highlighted by the network after being raised by the LGBTQIA community include gender Neutral Bathrooms, collecting information around gender, names and pronouns, and ensuring safe spaces on campus.