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Rick Higgs, Welcome team at the Sydney Opera House. Image: Richard Hedger

Celebrating pride at the Opera House

In the spirit of Mardi Gras, six of our staff share their stories

Tegan Reeves, Hannah Burnett

Mardi Gras holds a special place in the heart of the city. Imbued with so many different emotions and experiences, this iconic festival is a symbol of hope, joy and freedom of expression for many Sydneysiders.

To celebrate this moment of pride, some of our staff stepped in front of the camera to reflect on their own stories, as part of the city’s LGBTQI+ community. Portraits by Richard Hedger.

Tracey Paul, Ticketing

"I have a responsibility as a queer woman of colour. I can’t change the colour of my skin or what I represent. In any environment, work or in the community, those people who do not necessarily play to the queer stereotype need to have a voice and need to feel a part.

I think we all do—it’s a human kind of thing - you need to feel like you are around your own kind of people, like you belong."

“I have a responsibility as a queer woman of colour. I can't change the colour of my skin or what I represent.”

Anthony Carthew, Executive Office

“My first Mardi Gras was in 1988 and, as a timid young lad from Broken Hill, I knew I’d found my spiritual home. I soon landed my first job in Sydney—receptionist at the AIDS Council of NSW, right at the peak of the HIV epidemic. The phones were ringing non-stop as people urgently needed information or just someone to talk to. Working there developed my sense of community.

"And Mardi Gras was always there to support and celebrate us, at a time of discrimination and misinformation—from politicians, media and general public alike. Many people I worked with were sick themselves, as the treatments weren’t working yet. But the camaraderie and bravery in our amazing community was truly inspiring. They were rainbow warriors, our good Samaritans.

“For the next 25 years, I proudly took my place on Oxford Street’s 'golden mile' as drag performer Amelia Airhead—and last year I had the privilege of producing the first Sydney Opera House float to take part in the Parade.

"For my entire adult life, Mardi Gras has been a constant affirmation to not only proudly live your authentic self, but to march, prance and party in honour of those courageous, hilarious and talented souls who fought so hard for the equality and respect we have always deserved.”

“Mardi Gras has been a constant affirmation to not only proudly live your authentic self, but to march, prance and party in honour of those courageous, hilarious and talented souls who fought so hard for the equality and respect we have always deserved.”

Alex Lamarque, Special Events

"I host a monthly show in Sydney called Dungeons and Drag Kweens where myself and other ‘Gaymers’ (gay gaming enthusiasts) combine queer culture and comedy while playing Dungeons and Dragons live.

"We also record the show for our podcast and this allows us to access our queer fantasy universe at any time."

Hannah Worrall, Marketing

"There is a silly expectation that we fit a mould. But it’s an old way of thinking that there are certain categories of us all. The concept that you have to fit into a category doesn’t exist as much anymore. I’m myself—I just happen to love a lady."

“I’m myself—I just happen to love a lady.”

Rick Higgs, Welcome Team

“I’ve always been a crazy dresser. I went to a school that didn’t have a uniform. When I started this job, I thought ‘I need to step my game up. I’m not coming in, in a black suit’. So that’s how my wardrobe has evolved.

“I probably have about 30 different coloured suits, and 20 pairs of Dr Martens. What suit I choose to wear depends on what kind of mood I’m in. You have to wear the suit, or the suit will wear you.”

“You have to wear the suit, or the suit will wear you.”

Kim Bluett, Project Management Office

“As an LGBTQI+ ally, the community has been a huge part of my life for my 15+ years in Sydney. It’s been 20 years since I went to my first Mardi Gras with my little sister, and it’s great that she’s found such a fabulous community to support her here.

“I’ve felt really welcomed as an ally, and I love that my children are such strong supporters of equality and understand how important it is that everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are.”


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Go Backstage and discover more from the people, shows and stories that bring the Opera House to life.

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