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Even on our own, we’re still together



“We are a strong and resilient community. We’ve faced many challenges before but I believe the collective power of our community can get us through anything.” Darren Sibson, Co-Lead, ANZ Pride.

Dempsey is very proud of how the community has dug deep and come together to pull off an amazing display of diversity and togetherness – even during the height of a global pandemic.

With many Pride celebrations cancelled in 2020, the 2021 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival was a chance for the LGBTIQ+ community to come together and feel supported - even if it did look a little different this year.


Starring members of the LGBTIQ+ community including ANZ employees, a powerful film has been created to help shine a light on the emotions often felt by the community.

The campaign is a tribute to the people who have shown exceptional strength and resilience throughout an extra challenging time. It aims to bring people together through their unified experiences of isolation. The intention is to make people feel just like they do at Mardi Gras - innately proud to be part of such a beautiful and vibrant group of individuals.


Darren, Co-Lead of ANZ Pride, and Dempsey, ANZ Customer Due Diligence specialist, share their personal reflections of this year’s celebration and what it meant to be part of the campaign. 


ANZ launched a film this Mardi Gras as a reminder that we are never really dancing on our own.


How were you feeling in the lead up to Mardi Gras this year, compared with other years?


Dempsey: This year’s Mardi Gras was like no other. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, it meant many people were unable to celebrate as they might have in previous years. However, I am very proud of how the community dug deep and came together to pull off an amazing display of diversity and togetherness – even during the height of a global pandemic.


This year’s Mardi Gras has been a special celebration of those in the community supporting each other to overcome the odds. Our community has faced tough times and the current pandemic is no exception. From the 78ers Protest, HIV/AIDS crisis to the Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite, our community has only become stronger and more united in the face of so much negativity.

2021 Mardi Gras proves that in tough times, our community can still come together for one ‘last dance’ and show our unity, love and support…


Darren: I was feeling a different type of excitement and nervousness compared to previous years. I appreciated the parade wasn’t going to be held in the spiritual location of Oxford Street – where the first protest was held. But I also had a strong feeling of gratitude that we could still come together and celebrate our community despite so many cancelled Pride events across the world.


Darren says he feels special and lucky to be part of the campaign this year.


What does it mean to be part of this campaign and what do you hope others will take from it?


Darren: I felt so lucky to be part of the campaign and video. It was a privilege to represent my ANZ Pride friends and colleagues. I think the camera work and lighting made me look like a better dancer than what I think I am! It was nice to let loose and feel the music.


The music video is almost like a tribute to the strength of LGBTIQ+ community. There’s a gentle nod to isolation but I love how it culminates in a celebration of dance and acceptance and that you’re never truly on your own because the community is right behind you.


Dempsey: I am thrilled I was able to be a part of the campaign. It really highlights the journey we have been on in the last 12 months. I hope it shows to others the importance of Mardi Gras in the 21st Century.


As a Drag Queen who started out in Sydney, Mardi Gras has a very special place in my heart; it is a unique blend of celebration, protest, dance, and artistry – and I am ever thankful for those trailblazers who have come before me.


Loneliness and isolation were some of the most important issues for the community in 2020 and into 2021 as we continue to navigate COVID-19. Can you touch on your own experience and feelings over the last 12 months?


Darren: I live alone, so there were definitely some challenges for me, particularly around not having visitors for a large part of that time. I leant on the creative and ingenious people in the queer community who moved events and activities online to continue the important work of connecting our community, even if we couldn’t be together in person.


I was fortunate to be able to work throughout the lockdown. This really helped me to focus and maintain some sort of routine. I recognise my privilege in having a job during a time when so many people didn’t.


The feelings of isolation and loneliness are all too familiar to the LGBTIQ+ community – it’s something we’ve felt through our lives as we navigate the emotions of finding our true, authentic selves. 2020 brought us challenges as the physical connection to our community was taken away, including our safe spaces and venues.


But we are a strong and resilient community. We’ve faced many challenges before and I believe the collective power of our community can get us through anything.


Dempsey: I spent the majority of lockdown alone in Ulladulla NSW while my partner was in Queensland. We were unable to see each other for quite some time and had to stay connected over the phone. We were only reunited months later once the borders were opened.


This was really quite difficult for the most part, however we persevered, with the knowledge that eventually we would be together. I believe this has been the case for many of us within the community – and it is great that things are looking better each day!


Bridging the gap


As Principal Partner of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and a long term supporter of the LGBTIQ+ community, ANZ has provided a $100,000 donation to LGBTIQ+ community support service QLife. The donation will enable QLife to provide an additional 2,250 hours of web and telephone support in 2021 to support community members.


With unprecedented lockdowns and emotional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, QLife experienced:

  • a 58 per cent increase in demand for its telephone and web services during the second half of the year
  • one in 10 calls pertaining to feelings of “isolation” and “loneliness”
  • a 78 per cent increase (year on year) in support calls received from LGBTIQ+ Australians living in rural and remote communities.


ANZ Group Executive, Australia Retail & Commercial Banking, Mark Hand says “we know our LGBTIQ+ community is resilient but the challenges of 2020 have been far reaching”.


Organisations such as QLife are making a real difference when it comes to bridging the gap between isolation and connection.


“Mardi Gras is a time to unite and celebrate - whether you’re at the Sydney Cricket Ground this year or dancing in your living room - we want the LGBTIQ+ community to know they are always supported and never alone,” Mark says.



ANZ has provided a $100,000 donation to LGBTIQ+ community support service QLife. What does it mean for the community?


Darren: I’m most excited and proud of this donation. It’s absolutely life changing for so many people in the community who need someone to reach out and talk to.


It recognises there is still lots of work to do to ensure people in the LGBTIQ+ community feel safe and supported to be their authentic selves, wherever they are, whoever they are, and no matter who they love. I’d encourage anyone who is feeling isolated or lonely to reach out and talk to friends or a professional.


Dempsey: I am overwhelmed by the amount of support ANZ has invested in this essential LGBTIQ+ service. It is so important that our community has access to these vital resources, especially during such difficult times.


We are so lucky to have such an amazing community that thrives and is at its best when we are together.

Our community is important to me; therefore, this support means a lot. There are so many people out there who may not have a family to go home to yet they have come to find a ‘family’ within the community that accepts them no matter what. 


If you are feeling  isolated and need support, please reach out to QLife.

1800 184 527 | QLIFE.ORG.AU


ANZ has been Principal Partner of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras since 2014 and a participant since 2007.



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