The Orange Rainbow Festival
The Orange Rainbow Festival was the first LGBTQI+ pride celebration held in the regional city. Image by Stephanie Gardiner/AAP PHOTOS
  • arts, culture and entertainment

Orange becomes part of the rainbow in pride celebration

Stephanie Gardiner March 24, 2024

Long known as the colour city, Orange can now call itself part of the rainbow.

Hundreds of people have turned out for the regional NSW city’s first Rainbow Festival to celebrate and support the LGBTQI community.

Crowds draped in pride flags, adorned in sequins and bright flowing gowns joyfully paraded through the centre of town on Saturday afternoon.

“We are a diverse community with many tribes,” mayor Jason Hamling told the jubilant crowd.

“But we are one community: everyone who lives here deserves the same opportunity to feel they belong.”

The atmosphere was particularly triumphant after LGBTQI+ residents and their supporters successfully fought off an attempt to cancel the festival.

Councillor Kevin Duffy put forward a motion to withdraw council resources from the event two weeks ago, saying gender and sexuality were not the responsibility of local government.

The Orange Rainbow Festiva
 Orange LGBTQI+ community members have celebrated an opportunity to feel they belong. Image by Stephanie Gardiner/AAP PHOTOS 

Record crowds filled the council chambers on March 5 to hear impassioned speeches about the complexities of being a LGBTQI person in the country.

The motion was overwhelmingly defeated in a 10-2 vote.

Mr Hamling said the move only boosted ticket sales and proved the significance of a country pride festival.

“We’ve still got so much to learn as a community and that’s where new festivals like this are so important,” he told the festival audience.

“As they say, you can’t be what you can’t see.”

Many in the crowd wore shirts declaring “Love Wins” and “We are family”, undeterred by grey skies and drizzle as they watched boisterous drag performances and live music.

The festival was a powerful moment for local Lisa, a proud mother of a trans son.

“This is like a party for me, I can’t go to many things because of family biases,” she said, asking that her surname not be published.

“It’s really lonely when you’re trans in Orange, really desperately lonely when you have to hide everything.

“There are pockets of diversity and inclusivity and hopefully Orange will become one.”

Orange Rainbow Festival
 The mood among the crowd was joyful and jubilant. Image by Stephanie Gardiner/AAP PHOTOS 

Many regional towns around Australia have successful pride events, including Wagga Wagga and Broken Hill, in NSW, Ballarat in Victoria and Albany in WA.

Jaz Tully, from Sydney’s Dykes on Bikes motorcycle club, felt compelled to travel to the central west.

“I understand there was a bit of difficulty getting it off the ground, so I thought I’d come and show my support,” Ms Tully said.

“I take it for granted that I’m in the city where diversity is celebrated but here it’s more difficult.”

The city received a $125,800 NSW government grant for the festival, specifically to support young people and promote inclusivity and acceptance.

Teenager Elizabeth, who is bisexual, said the festival meant a lot.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t get it in small towns like this,” she said.

“I hope it brings light to people who don’t understand.”