Party with pride while staying safe this Mardi Gras


People on balcony celebrating mardi gras

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is more than a pride parade. The festivities, sometimes lovingly referred to as “Gay Christmas" span more than two weeks and see hundreds of thousands of people from all over Australia, and the world, gather and connect with their community in a “colourful explosion of self-expression, celebration and protest".

From Broken Hill to Darlinghurst, whether you are slaying at the sissy ball, partying at the parade, or taking the whole family down to the Oxtravaganza it's just as important to stay safe as it is to have fun. Make your Mardi Gras experience one to remember with these top tips to party safely:

Plan Your Journey

  • Before leaving take the time to plan your journey to and from the event. Opt for public transportation or rideshare services to avoid traffic congestion, road closures, and parking hassles.
  • It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drug. For your safety and the wellbeing of others, have a Plan B to get home.

Party Safely

  • If you're drinking alcohol, keep track of how many drinks you've had to avoid injury or making yourself sick. Consider having water between each alcoholic drink.
  • Using illicit drugs like ecstasy, GHB or methamphetamine comes with risks. You don't know the purity, what other things have been added to them, the strength, or how it will affect you. Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs.
  • Check out the risks of all sorts of drugs and drug combinations by browsing the A-Z of Drugs for in-depth detail and keep an eye on NSW Heath for any public drug warnings.
  • Consider having Naloxone available, especially if you are hosting a party. An opioid overdose can occur even if you didn't intentionally take an opioid. Naloxone can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, and save a life. Take Home Naloxone is free and available from community pharmacies and NSPs.
  • Mixing alcohol with GHB can cause you to lose consciousness, check out ACON's Avoid the Drop Zone campaign for more information. It's important to tell someone you trust what you've taken and to get help immediately if it's needed.
  • If you feel like you need some support, look out for the ACON Rovers a much-loved team of volunteers who provide support and information at major LGBTI parties and events to make sure partygoers are kept safe. You'll find them wearing bright pink vests and looking out for people who might need a helping hand.
  • Remember if you do need to seek medical attention, a paramedic will not call police unless there is a threat to safety. It is crucial that someone tells a paramedic what you have taken, so they can provide the best possible care.
  • If you end up partying harder than you intended, ACON and other organisations have support and programs related to sexual health, alcohol, drugs, and counselling available. For details visit or

Eat, Rest, Hydrate and Stay Cool

  • Eating helps to slow down your drinking as well as also slow down the absorption of alcohol. The more slowly you drink, the easier it is to monitor your drinking and you will be less likely to accidentally drink too much.
  • Alcohol and other drugs can affect your body's ability to regulate temperature. If you find yourself feeling overheated while partying the night away, take regular breaks away from the crowds and allow yourself to cool down or seek help.
  • If you're attending an event in the daytime, make sure you take sun safety precautions and plan your outfit around your accessories, wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen is important. Find some shade and cool off as much as possible.
  • Mardi Gras can be a big couple of weeks with multiple parties and events. Make sure you schedule in some time to rest and catch up on food and sleep.

Take care of your mates

  • Charge your phone fully before you leave but remember to have a backup plan in case you can't make a call such as a flat battery, a loud venue or the network coverage being overloaded.
  • Stay with your mates wherever possible and agree on a physical meeting point if you get lost.
  • You might choose to establish a buddy system where each person is responsible for looking after other members of the group.
  • Some people consider sharing locations using Find My Friends or other GPS location tracking apps before the event. Don't be afraid to seek help if you think your mate has taken things too far, is in danger or looking unwell.

Look after your mental health

  • Alcohol and other drugs like MDMA affect serotonin levels in your brain, a chemical responsible for regulating social behaviour like empathy and optimism. Using MDMA causes the release of large amounts of serotonin which depletes your reserves, making you feel bummed out (depressed, confused or low) after the high. Be aware that it can take anywhere from a few days to a week or two for your serotonin levels to return to normal.
  • Large crowds can become overwhelming. If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, tell a trusted friend how you feel and move away from loud music and crowds. Find a calm place to chill out.
  • Some drugs can enhance negative feelings like anxiety or bad thoughts. Avoid alcohol or drugs if you are already feeling emotional, depressed or anxious. Don't make any important decisions about life or relationships under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
  • Don't miss your meds. If you're on prescribed meds, make sure you don't miss your dose. Set an alarm. If you need to take it with a meal, a simple banana can help your meds go down (and keep them down)

Respect Boundaries and Consent

  • While Mardi Gras is a celebration of inclusivity and diversity, it's essential to respect the boundaries and personal space of others, especially in crowded areas.
  • Engaging in respectful and open conversations with fellow parade-goers about boundaries and consent can foster a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone to enjoy the festivities without feeling uncomfortable or violated.
  • Always ask for consent before initiating physical contact or taking photographs, and be mindful of cultural sensitivities.

Practice Safe Sex

  • Don't leave the party without letting someone know and if you are using a hook up app or meeting with a stranger, make sure you share the location with a trustworthy friend and keep them updated.
  • Condoms play a vital role in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs, and with 60,000 free AC​ON condom safe packs at LGBTI venues and events during the Mardi Gras season, it's the cheapest and easiest way to stay safe.
  • Condoms or other barriers should also be used when sharing internal or external sex toys between partners. If using without a barrier, clean after each use with warm soapy water and air dry.
  • For people with vaginas who sleep with other people with vaginas, it's best to use a dental dam. Unfortunately, they are sometimes hard to come by or expensive. If you find yourself without one, you can make one quite easily from a cut up condom. 
  • There are now a range of effective HIV prevention strategies available including taking PrEP, using condoms and maintaining an undetectable viral load. To find out more, visit
  • ​​If you think you've been exposed to HIV, PEP may prevent you from becoming infected – but you need to act quickly, within the first 72 hours. More information is available via the 24-hour PEP Hotline: 1800 737 669. 

Useful links for support or more information

Post pride when the rainbow flags previously flying in shop windows have been taken down and the last of the glitter has been washed away sometimes comes a period of sadness. You can help overcome these feelings by being prepared, keeping busy, eating and sleeping well and seeking out support.

  • Q Life 1800 184 527 (3pm to midnight every day)
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24 hours)
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 (24 hours)

For resources and support for the LGBTQIA+ community around alcohol and other drugs, visit ACON's Rover Party Portal.

For more information on how to have a great time at Sydney Mardi Gras visit or

The NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) is a peer-based drug user organisation, offering strategies for harm reduction and current issues relating to drug use in Australia.

For free and confidential advice 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm.​

Photo credit: Rocket K Photography

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