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Whittlesea welcomes new pride festival

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By Pam Kiriakidis

WHITTLESEA’S first ever pride festival will be celebrated on May 7, with a range of family-friendly activities available to help raise awareness.  

Whittlesea Community Connections is hosting the event with the City of Whittlesea and partnering with organisations including Banyule Community Health, DPV Health, Kids First and Bi Alliance Victoria.

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Kicking off at 11am, the family-friendly event will feature a range of stalls offering interactive activities such as arts and crafts, food trucks and live drag performances to celebrate all identities, backgrounds, and orientations.

The festival will also accomodate for accessibility needs, providing gender-neutral toilets, changing rooms, a quite space, wheelchair accessibility and safety officers and youth workers available on-site.

Whittlesea Community Connections youth worker Sarah Wassouf said the event was to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and the broader LGBTQIA+, community members together, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the main reasons is thinking about how isolating the COVID-19 lockdowns and pandemic was, especially for young LGBTQIA+ community members, so we are trying to create opportunities for people to come together, increase social participation and to support each other,” she said.

As more pride festivals are offered in Melbourne, Ms Wassouf said it was crucial to give similar opportunities and safe spaces to young LGBTQIA+ members in the City of Whittlesea.

“We saw that as you know presenting a major accessibility issue, we felt it was important to finally bring some of the festivities to the City of Whittlesea,” she said.

“The event is just there to celebrate all things pride, diversity, and we hope that it’s a pathway into reducing social isolation, and just working towards positive wellbeing outcomes for everyone, specifically for those who identify as LGBTQIA+.”

Outside the festival, Ms Wassouf works with LGBTQIA+ youth and facilitates a rainbow group at Epping Secondary College that comes together once a month.

“It’s creating a safe space for them where they can talk about how they’re navigating different spaces of their life, whether it’s their sexuality or cultural, also planning activities and events in the school, giving purpose and a safe space,” she said.

Ms Wassouf said the festival would provide information on different services around wellbeing, and hoped the festival would become a once-a-year event.

The Whittlesea Pride Festival will be at Meadowglen International Athletics Stadium, located at 146-156 McDonalds Road, Epping, from 11am to 4pm.

To secure free tickets, visit bit.ly/415Nsud.

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