Sydney’s Macquarie Grammar School will have a float in Mardi Gras on March 1. What’s more, it’s their fourth time!
Flicking through the promotional pamphlet for the school, an independent non-selective high school located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, you’ll find a bright, colourful page showing Macquarie students marching in the 2013 Mardi Gras.
Yes, it is extraordinary. The school is proudly anti-discrimination, anti-bullying and believes in equality across all boards. That defies all my and, I am sure, your preconceived thoughts of a private school.
Macquarie Grammar’s principal, 57-year-old Dr Darryl Gauld, marched for equality in 1977 and is horrified that almost half a century since his schooling “we have not moved forward”.
At his position as principal of 120 students, he’s fighting for change and sees it as his responsibility to educate the students about the importance of equality and anti-discrimination. “It is my job to demonstrate that there is a school that does walk the talk and enforce inclusivity and respect, and I am very proud of that,” he says.
“It’s our nation’s largest parade and by being involved, together we’re showing the world we believe in equality.”
This year, 80 students will march. But does he worry that Macquarie’s involvement may cause a backlash among their parents? In short, no. “It has never, will never and should never cause any damage to the school’s reputation. If anything it will strengthen it,” he says.
The assistant principal, Mr Paul Hagan, agrees: “All families show support and believe it is such a fantastic thing how equal the school is.”
If they don’t agree, it doesn’t take them long to come round. As 13-year-old year 8 student Josh explains, his mum didn’t want him to march last year. “I guess she didn’t want me to be exposed to all of that [at 11 years old], but I went anyway and she is now okay with me marching again for the second year in a row.”
Other pupils feel similarly. As 14-year-old year 11 student John says, “Rights are pointless unless applied to everyone. It is 10 times better we have a float than if we didn’t.”
The reaction of the gay population towards students marching in the parade has been very positive. “Last year, during the parade, heaps of gay people (covered in glitter no doubt) came up to us saying how touched they were a school was marching for them,” says year 11 student Nell.
“Are there bullies in this school?” The Newsroom asked the students.
In unison, all replied “NO!”
It seems the students really do live by the message Dr Gauld’s delivers after each assembly: “Enjoy your week and put love in your heart!”
If you can’t get to the City route to watch the parade on March 1, you can catch all the action on SBS2 on Sunday, March 2, from 8:30pm. – Zachary Pittas
All photos courtesy of Macquarie Grammar School.