The top LGBTQIA+ festivals and events around Australia
Sydney WorldPride/Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Feb–March
Image: Destination NSW
Get ready for a mega Mardi Gras! WorldPride is joining forces with the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to celebrate creative expression and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights worldwide. This global festival is being held for the first time in the southern hemisphere, in what the event’s co-creative directors Ben Graetz and Daniel Clarke describe as “partying with a purpose”.
The focus on First Nations LGBTQIA+ arts and culture across the festival will be a big point of difference, as well as the three-day LGBTQIA+ Human Rights Conference with over 60 local and international presenters. These events unite seamlessly with Sydney’s normal Mardi Gras festivities: the iconic Parade, Fair Day, Sissy Ball and many pool parties will be filled with pumping music (including plenty of Minogue tributes) and breathtaking costumes.
Midsumma Festival, Melbourne, Jan–Feb
Image: Matt Hrkac via Flickr
Victoria's premier queer arts and cultural festival, Midsumma, returns for 22 days across January and February, with its main event, the Midsumma Pride March occuring in early Feb. Something akin to ‘Gay Art Christmas’, Midsumma hosts inclusive and accessible events for a diverse range of communities and creators including performers, artists, designers, multi-media makers, experimentalists and activists. This queer-run creative playground is an exploration of intersectional identity among the different facets of queer communities in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Where to stay: YHA Melbourne Central
Feast Festival, Adelaide, November
Adelaide is often known as the City of Churches (despite not actually having that many) – but in Pridevember, Adelaide turns into the city of queer artists, gourmands, wine lovers and hedonists. For the love of all that is good and gay, please take yourself to Feast Festival – Adelaide’s headline celebration of LGBTQIA+ culture. With artists, performers and revellers visiting from all over the world, Feast Festival serves up an extensive list of over 100 events including the epic Opening Night Street Party and its fabulous Pride March, plus a smorgasbord of theatre, cabaret, circus, comedy, leather and kink, sporting events and playwriting workshops. Whatever your favourite flavour, you'll be spoiled for choice!
Where to stay: YHA Adelaide Central
fabALICE Festival, Alice Springs, March
Image: Tourism NT
Live out your Priscilla, Queen of the Desert dreams at the fabALICE Festival in Alice Springs. This enchanting Northern Territory fiesta of offers a unique showcase of disco, drag, culture, and cabaret. Immerse yourself in Drag Queen storytime, lip-sync battles, sing-alongs, educational workshops, after parties and more over a jam-packed four days. You also don’t want to miss the iconic Gala Under the Stars, complete with feather boas, glitter and laughter to last a lifetime. Yas, Alice Springs!
Where to stay: YHA Alice Springs
PrideFEST, Perth, November
November in Perth becomes the loudest queer month in the land with its one and only pride festival, PrideFEST. This fabulous affair puts on over 65 events including local-favourites Fairday, the Great PrideFEST Bake-Off and of course its very own Parade. Partnering with Living Proud’s Queer and Accessible project, many of the month’s events and activities are designed with accessibility in mind and offer a range of supports to allow LGBTQIA+ people with disability to connect with their queer peers and enjoy the festivities to the fullest.
Where to stay: YHA Fremantle Prison
Brisbane Pride Festival, Brisbane, September
Image: Christopher Neugebauer via Flickr
The dazzling lights of ‘BrisVegas’ shine brightest when the city hosts Brisbane Pride Festival each year. This month-long queer-stravaganza entertains the masses with its fantastic Fair Day, Pride Rally and March, Queens Ball and more. There’s even a couple of events catering specifically to young people so they can connect to queer groups and find a greater sense of community and understanding within the Brisbane LGBTQIA+ community.
Where to stay: YHA Brisbane City
TasPride Festival, Hobart, February
Love is Love at TasPride Festival, and there’s magic in the air in quirky Hobart when Tasmania’s number one rainbow flag-flying bonanza comes to town! Join locals and out-of-towners alike in this colourful carnival of culture, cabaret, comedy and other queer capers, made sweeter with Tassie’s famously exquisite food and drink. TasPride curates about 20 events as part of the Festival each February, but also hosts others throughout year such as the Artfully Queer Exhibition and Queens Ball.
Where to stay: YHA Hobart Central
Queer Film Festivals, various
Image: PRIDE Queer Film Festival, Perth
Whether you’re born this way or a proud ally, catch the latest in local and international queer cinema at one of the many Queer Film Festivals around Australia. With an enduring lack of authentic representation in media, queer films, shorts and documentaries validate and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ experience, and by attending a screening, you’ll be supporting queer creators and getting entertained at the same time!
Here's just some of the queer film festivals you should keep tabs on: Mardi Gras Film Festival and Queer Screen Film Festival (NSW, both hosted by QueerScreen), Melbourne Queer Film Festival (VIC), Bendigo Queer Film Festival (VIC), Gold Coast Queer Film Festival (QLD), PRIDE Queer Film Festival (WA), and the queer film strand at Adelaide Film Festival (SA).
Top End Pride festivals, Darwin City and Katherine, June
Tie your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Northern Territory with some radiant rainbow revelry with Top End Pride. Beginning as Darwin Pride, the organisation now hosts two modestly sized but uniquely flavoured queer jamborees in the form of the Darwin (4 days) and Katherine (3 days) Pride Festivals – each with their own lineup of entertainment, workshops and activities. While there are events for all ages at both including picnics for families, there’s also plenty of grown-ups-only fun, too.
Where to stay: YHA MOM Darwin
SpringOUT, Canberra, November
It’s an irrepressible party here in the capital city with the highest proportion of same-sex couples. Featuring over 20 fun and inclusive events, SpringOUT delivers an ever-evolving line-up of parties, picnics, burlesque, trivia and more (not forgetting its real highlight: Fair Day). One of the smaller outfits on this list, SpringOUT is nonetheless a blast and definitely one to watch as the city and its LGBTQIA+ community continue to grow in the coming years.
Fringe Festivals, various
Image: Blunderland / Adelaide Fringe Festival
Fringe is a worldwide independent arts movement that has found its way to Australia in the form of a range of loosely connected festivals. Inspiring and influential, Fringe festivals see culture creators from all walks of life and from all across our cities showcase their stories and unique expression. While not explicitly focused on the heteronormatively-challenged, they're generally extremely queer-friendly, with a healthy number of gay, lesbian and trans performers and plenty of queer-themed events.
Festivals flying the Fringe banner can be found in: Sydney (NSW), Newcastle (NSW), Melbourne (VIC), Castlemaine (VIC), Brisbane (QLD), Wynnum (QLD), Adelaide (SA), Darwin (NT), and Bunbury (WA) to name a few, so show your appreciation for the contribution of arts, activism and queer culture to your favourite city by getting involved!
Words: Jacinda Pangaribuan
Looking to make a stay of it? Check out our picks for the Most LGBTQIA+ friendly cities in Australia!
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