Five women standing in front of car holding a big pride flag

A march for equality and everyone’s right to live their best, inclusive life exploded into a sea of rainbow pride and unity in Mackay on Wednesday.

Sitting high above the gleaming Pioneer River, Forgan Bridge glistened in the sun as marchers - including front and centre Feros Care staff - let their true colours shine in what became Mackay’s first ever pride march.

Organised by Mind Australia, the 150 strong crowd waived flags, wore costumes, pushed small floats and fluffed their feathers as the pride train crossed the bridge before gathering adjacent to Mackay’s Blue Water Quay.

The inaugural march, designed to break down barriers and stigma for the LGTBQIA+ community, was strong in spirit and made a significant mark, in what was traditionally a conservative region of Australia.

Feros Care community development coordinator, Di Chataway, one of five Feros Care Staff involved, said it was not only an honour to march and celebrate unity and pride, it was great to also have the opportunity to wear her rainbow-emblazoned, Pride work shirt complete with a “you, me, us’, motto, to reflect the company’s inclusive and accepting views to the wider Mackay community.

“We all walked purposely to remove barriers for the generations to come and we all walked that bridge with sincerity with true allies and tears in our eyes,” Di said.

“It was very, very positive, and people were beeping horns and waving to us all as they came past. Whether you identify as LGTBQIA+ or not, it was embraced by everyone and it was just such a wonderful event.”

MAKING A DIFFERENCE DRIVES OUR LOCAL AREA COORDINATORS

Feros Care Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Tino Sopa, said she was proud to be involved and for Feros Care offering her the opportunity to show her support.

Originally from Botswana before making her way to Mackay via New Zealand, Tino said the march in support of equal rights had really resonated with her.

“Marching for what should be accepted shows we’re still not all on the same page even though it’s 2020, and when I stood there, it felt really personal for me also and made me think back to my ancestors fighting for their rights,” Tino said.

“But it was liberating and powerful, and there was a real sense of pride and acknowledgement for equal rights… I’m really proud of Feros Care for helping me to be a part of that, and it felt amazing that we were there and present.

“I also have a lot of friends who are gay or bisexual, so I really wanted to be a part of it and look back in the future and say, ‘I was there’.

Yuwibera traditional custodian Phillip Kemp was also on hand to embrace the crowd while speaking of the barriers and stigma being broken down through the landmark moment.

Organiser Abby Chester from Mind Australia also addressed and thanked the crowd, marking the march as a time of showing gay pride while honouring the progress made since a small group of protestors sparked the beginnings of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on the streets of Darlinghurst in Sydney over four decades ago.

Although praising history and progress, Abby also spoke of the fact that with the march being a Mackay first, it was important to recognise how far the community still has to go to achieve equality and acceptance.

Three women with their backs to the camera wearing pride T-shirts that say

One marcher, Georgia, told the crowd while she was accepted by family and friends after “coming out” at 12, others still faced prejudices including being kicked out of home, being bullied, abuse from strangers and even death.

“It’s time to show people here that we are fearless,” she told the crowd.

 “Let’s be heard and not silenced… loved and not hated upon, and unapologetically us.”

While the crowd included those from Mackay and surrounds, and pride-filled marchers from as far as coal mining hub, Clermont, a host of organisations also stood with Mind Australia to pledge their support.

With the inclusion of Lives Lived Well, Marabisda, The Courage Project, Deadly Choices, Churches of Christ, Mackay Regional Council, Queensland Health and Relationships Australia, Mind Australia made a pledge to the crowd to make the march a first of many, and an annual event.

“It was great to see all the rainbow flags flying and we were really proud to wear our ‘Pride’ Feros Shirts,” Di said.

“It had a real family friendly atmosphere, and it was a great stage for showing our support and saying, ‘we’re right behind the equality movement.”

The march marks another show of pride from Feros Care staff after February’s “What Matters March” to celebrate inclusivity during Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

One young woman pointing at the back of a T-shirt of another, which says

CLICK HERE TO FIND OTHER WAYS FEROS CARE IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE COMMUNITY.

IF YOU’D LIKE TO BE PART OF SUCH AN INCREDIBLE TEAM, SEE OUR CAREER OPPORTUNITIES HERE.

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