On Saturday, March 2, over 200 floats from every corner of the LGBTQIA+ community filled Oxford Street, Flinders Street, and Anzac Parade with music and magic for the 46th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Among them was a spectacular float called OURtopia, created by clients and employees from Afford, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and Northcott.


Coming together for OURtopia

Mardi Gras Parade

OURtopia participants gather pre-parade

The vibrant parade float marked a historic moment, as it represented the very first partnership of our three leading disability service providers. The decision to come together made an important statement about our commitment to celebrating the rights, love, and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. Client ambassadors from Afford, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and Northcott also played a key role in bringing this float to life, contributing to every stage of planning and design.

The theme of this year’s parade was “Our Future,” celebrating past achievements while lighting a dazzling path ahead. Inspired by this forward-focused theme, our float encouraged everyone to imagine ‘OURtopia,’ where we can all be part of a fully inclusive future. Designed to look like a time-machine, complete with the telephone box Tardis from Doctor Who, OURtopia spread a joyous message of equality and belonging.

Volunteers from each organisation donated costume materials and float supplies, and offered their time and skills at dedicated costume-making and float-building workshops. On the big night, more than 80 clients and employees from Afford, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and Northcott came together to dance along the parade route under the OURtopia banner.

Magic on the parade route

Mardi Gras Parade

Allan, Andy, and Roslyn proudly marching together

As we gathered in the pre-parade marshalling area, spirits were running high! Not even rain showers or technical difficulties with our float truck could dampen the excitement of the OURtopia group. Then, as our float hit Oxford Street, the Mardi Gras fairies sprinkled magic upon us: the rain cleared, our lights and music sprang to life, and our confetti cannons began blasting, resulting in roaring cheers from the gathered crowds.

Afford’s client ambassador, Andy, said “Everyone was all together, and everything was my favourite. When the confetti flies out and the people scream, that was the best one. I did high fives with people watching and everyone touched my hand. My new best friend now is Jo, the big boss at Afford. She walked with me, and we were happy together all night.”

Before the Parade began, many in our group wondered how tough it might be to get to the other end. But once we were underway, it felt like we were carried along the route by waves of pure joy. From the sidelines, the spectators roared their approval as OURtopia passed, with shouts of “happy Mardi Gras” continuously exchanged between our participants and the crowd.

In what seemed like a flash, we reached the end of the parade, where Afford-supported employee Roslyn exclaimed, “I could do it all again right now!” Another Afford participant, Allan, felt just the same. He said, “I enjoyed the night and the fun and wonderful atmosphere of the amazing parade. Oh, what a fantastic time with Team OURtopia, I could have kept going on and on!”

A welcoming experience for all

Mardi Gras Parade

Andy and Jo enjoying the crowd’s energy

With the glitter now settling (we’re sure to keep finding it for months), Afford’s CEO Jo Toohey reflected on the experience of being part of OURtopia. “The Mardi Gras Parade is a true celebration of inclusion and diversity. It was so uplifting to see how warmly our clients were welcomed along the parade route, and to witness the joy and excitement from everyone in our group. I loved being included and joining in with the dancing and laughter. Participating in the parade really reminded me why I do the work I do, and how much I get to take away from it personally.”

More fabulous OURtopia highlights

Videography/photography credit: Ohragnar

About Afford: Afford is one of Australia’s largest and most established disability service providers, more than 70 years of experience working with clients, their families, and carers to achieve their goals and dreams in life and work.

About Cerebral Palsy Alliance: Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a ground-breaking, global centre of expertise for cerebral palsy services and support, research, technology and innovation, and advocacy. We embrace diversity and value our extraordinary people, who unite under our shared vision of creating hope for the future.

About Northcott: Northcott is a disability service provider that works with customers to realise their potential. As one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit disability service organisations, we provide services throughout NSW, QLD and the ACT. Northcott provides a range of services to people with disability including Sexuality and Relationship Education, Support Coordination, Therapy and Specialist Disability Accommodation.

Read more

Enjoy a glimpse of our colourful costume and float building workshops, leading up to our Mardi Gras Parade debut with Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Northcott. Tap this link.


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