Bega Valley LGBTI youth group to host Mardis Gras-style festival at Pambula

"It's about time we had a Mardi Gras style event," Dustin Taylor of the Bega Valley's youth LGBTI group said. "The time is right".

Mr Taylor and Carly McDonald are both gay locals who said the Rainbow Wave Festival has come at the right time.

"I was 16 when I came out and now at 34 I have been back in the Bega Valley and I can see how much times have changed," Mr Taylor said.

"The event has really come at the right time where people are becoming more open minded, I couldn't imagine being able to host something like this 10 years ago."

The youth driven event will be held at Oaklands in Pambula on Saturday, April 13. 

Carly McDonald and Dustin Taylor.

Carly McDonald and Dustin Taylor.

Supported by Headspace Bega, the Rainbow Wave Festival will kick off with celebrations for all ages from 3pm, a Mardi Gras parade at 7pm and a party into the evening for ages 18+.

Ms McDonald is a peer support worker at Heaspace Bega and said the festival is all about inclusiveness. 

“It’s an event to bring lots of different people together, that includes the LGBTI community - young and old, as well as their allies, friends and family," she said. 

"We want to encourage families and youth to feel comfortable in a safe environment.

"The event also has a focus on mental health, Headspace will be there as well as other services on the day," Ms McDonald said. 

Ms McDonald said she understands the issues the local and wider LGBTI community face. 

"Personally I struggled a lot three or four years ago to come out, it was difficult," she said.

"After growing up in a small town I can see there is still a lot of stigma around being gay, where people think gays are all heavily involved in the party scene and are reckless with drug behaviours. 

"This festival is not about that, we can educate people and show them it's all about unity," she said.

"Hopefully this event will push the positivity forward and normalise it."

Mr Taylor agreed.

"People still get freaked out and feel uncomfortable seeing a gay couple kissing, I think it's because people have no knowledge of it," he said.

"In a small town it's important to learn that there are gays out there." 

The LGBTI youth committee formed six weeks ago after a general call-out to the community through posters were shared around town. 

"It has been so great to have two 15-year-olds on the committee as well, they have really helped drive the festival and put it out to the youth," Ms McDonald said.

Students and committee members India and Hannah are LGBTI advocates and are hoping the festival will help to bring gay students together.

"I am most excited about meeting people and seeing it all come together after so much planning and work has been put in," India said. 

"I definitely want to be a part of it again next year, it has been so fun and everyone is so nice," Hannah said.

In addition to being a fun day out, the festival will raise funds for the Bega Headspace Youth LGBTI Group.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, check out the Rainbow Wave Festival Facebook or Instagram pages.

For donations and further inquiries email rainbowwavefest@gmail.com

This story Rainbow Wave Festival promotes inclusion, positivity first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.

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