4 March 2024

Life Without Barriers returned to Oxford Street to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ community.

Image: At the 2024 Mardi Gras Parade, an individual with blonde hair wears a white t-shirt with a rainbow flag and the words 'Life Without Barriers' printed on it. Behind her is the Life Without Barriers float and a group of people wearing the same t-shirt.

On Saturday, March 2, 50 people, including foster carers, people with a disability and their support workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, staff and allies, came together from across the country to show their alliance with the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I think it's just an amazing opportunity for Life Without Barriers to participate in Mardi Gras. It's not something we're doing to just tick a box," said Japhia McGuire, Regional Practice Lead.

"It is actually something that is a celebration of each individual within Life Without Barriers who is part of the LBGTQIA+ community. And its something that is really quite an important part of celebrating everybody’s uniqueness."

Image: A group photo of Life Without Barriers staff, carers, and the people we support at the 2024 Mardi Gras Parade.

Over 200 floats representing diverse communities lit up Oxford Street with colour, confidence, charisma, and character. There was a procession of 12,000 marchers embodying the 2024 Festival theme, Our Future, for the 46th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

Image: Two individuals wear cowboy hats and a white t-shirt with a rainbow flag and the words 'Life Without Barriers' printed on it.

2024 is the fifth year Life Without Barriers has participated in the Mardi Gras parade, but for many of our team and the people we support, this was the first time they had attended and participated in the march! We were thrilled to be able to bring so many people from the Life Without Barriers community together to celebrate.

Image: Life Without Barriers staff, carers, and the people we support, wear white t-shirts with a rainbow flag and the words 'Life Without Barriers' printed on it, rainbow flags and wings, and wait for the Mardi Gras Parade to start.

"I'm grateful to be here at Mardi Gras this year. I have been many years before in the past, but never have I had the opportunity to walk in the parade and show my support," said Helen Anderson, Senior Communications Advisor.

"It's wonderful to be here supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and I'm really, really proud that Life Without Barriers does this every year.”

"It's my first time marching in the parade; I’ve been an observer a couple of times, but wow, what a different experience being part of it. It’s just fantastic," said Mark Leigh, Chief Operating Officer.

"I've just met some of our carers who are same-sex. Our carers are just wonderful, warm people who give up their homes to look after and look after children in care. And I think it's fantastic to support people like them and everyone in the community."

Image: Craig, foster carer, wearing rainbow wings, a silver mask and a Life Without Barriers t-shirt, talking with Board Member Shannon Tobolov.

Beyond the positive energy and incredible atmosphere, the event allowed attendees to connect through their shared pride and learn more about each other’s stories and identities. This is something we practice every day at Life Without Barriers, with our employee network ‘Pride Without Barriers’ leading the way.

"I think being a part of Life Without Barriers is being a part of an organisation that doesn't just accept people who identify within the LGBTQIA+ community; we are also celebrated," Japhia reflected.

"Taking part in Mardi Gras tells the world that it’s something that's celebrated in our organisation and really just acknowledges the community in the best possible way."

Image: Japhia McGuire, Regional Practice Lead, wearing glitter and rainbow flags on her face, holds two light-up fans and smiles at the camera.

The theme, Our Future, was particularly important this year as a reminder that a future together is the most important thing. The theme embodies a commitment to inclusivity, acceptance, and optimism, celebrating past achievements while illuminating the path to the future.

"It's about really recognising, opening up and celebrating everyone. It's about listening and learning from each other's lived experiences," said Phi Theodoros, Resident Artist, Living Arts.

"And once we actually start to have a yarn with people that have a different story or a different life to us, my gosh, we can learn so many amazing things. We can grow together.”

Image: Life Without Barriers staff, carers and the people we support pose in front of the Life Without Barriers float, smiling at the camera.

At Life Without Barriers, we actively foster inclusion through the diversity of our people. We are proud to welcome all those of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics to join our organisation. Our participation in the Mardi Gras parade is just one example of how we encourage our staff, carers, and the people we support to be themselves.

Our goal is to create a great place to work for everyone by embracing the individual skills, perspectives, and experiences our people bring to the workplace.

Image: Life Without Barriers staff, carers and the people we support march behind the float in the Mardi Gras Parade.

Life Without Barriers has been public in its support for the LGBTQIA+ community and has been actively recruiting same-sex foster carers for over a decade.

“This is the first time we have been up to Sydney to represent Life Without Barriers which is very exciting. It’s representing the fact that anyone is capable of fostering a child," shared Craig, foster carer with Life Without Barriers.

We have vigorous assessments that we go through to become foster parents and we'd like to think that we're providing a really stable, safe home regardless of the make up of the family."

"For us, fostering has brought nothing but real joy to us over the past 12 to 18 months. It's been the best thing for us. It's definitely made our little family for us, which has been an amazing opportunity. So we are very lucky," added Samuel, foster carer with Life Without Barriers.

Image: A couple holding hands, walking in the Mardi Gras parade.

"We recognise that there are so many people out there that will be amazing foster carers, and we're not going to discriminate based on how you identify or who you date," said Phi.

"As long as you have love in your heart and space in your home for one of our young people, we would love to talk to you."

Mardi Gras is an opportunity for us to highlight the important contribution of same-sex couples as foster and kinship carers and encourage our LGBTQIA+ employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Image: Staff, carers and the people we support marching in the parade behind the float.

We are committed to our role in influencing the community to break down barriers, and we know that people feel included if they are valued and respected for being themselves.

"Diversity and inclusion is an integral part of the culture at Life Without Barriers, and I think it's explicit and implicit in everything that the staff and the board do."

"Taking part in the Mardi Gras Parade is a great way to show that we're supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, to meet other organisations and a chance for our staff and people from all over the country to come and connect with each other," said Shannon Tobolov, Life Without Barriers Board Member.

Image: A group of four people wearing Life Without Barriers t-shirts and rainbow items smile at the camera.

"Being here at Mardi Gras, it just makes me remember how important our values are to the organisation," Mark reflected.

"We're being courageous by putting ourselves on show; we're building relationships with all of the communities; we're being imaginative in this wonderful costume and the ideas on display here. So I think it really, really engages with our values, and that's just part of who we are."

Image: A group photo of Life Without Barriers staff, carers and the people we support in front of the float at the 2024 Mardi Gras Parade.

Diversity and inclusion at Life Without Barriers

At Life Without Barriers, we celebrate diversity, and we practice inclusion.

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