There were grumblings about ticket prices, the run-down condition of Oxford Street, over-policing and “pink washing” by big business. But a sense of excitement is building as Sydney prepares to show his open-minded, light-hearted and exuberant side. The first major official event, Mardi Gras Fair Day, takes place on Sunday.
Wickett says the two-week festival will be a bonanza for the tourism industry as 500,000 visitors are expected, including 78,000 in Sydney.
Aside from additional parties and a March 5 Harbor Bridge march, the centerpiece of Sydney WorldPride will be a three-day human rights conference curated by Equality Australia and chaired by Wickett’s wife.
Wickett says the conference will bring together lawmakers, activists, big business and members of the LGBTQ community: “There is still so much law, so much outrageous law, against our LGBTQ community in Asia Pacific.”
Wickett is excited about the economic recovery and job opportunities that WorldPride is offering as a waiter patiently waits to take our order. She’s already praised the grilled barramundi, which we choose to pair with sashimi and yellowfin tuna tartare.
An early riser, Wickett’s work days are filled with meetings and phone calls to put together the headlines for an event, discuss finances, or negotiate with a corporate sponsor. The former lawyer and consultant says leading Sydney WorldPride is the perfect marriage of her corporate career and volunteering.
She loves working on “big, big hairy projects,” she says. “Projects that are either complex or cumbersome. I either go in at the beginning to crank them up or I go in when they need a little help.”
Cities apply to host WorldPride every two years. Sydney won the rights to host this year’s event, following Copenhagen in 2021 and New York City in 2019.
Concerns about empty shops along Oxford Street have plagued organizers but Wickett is confident Sydney’s gay strip will not disappoint as she recalls her first encounter with Oxford Street as a teenager. “It was the Wednesday before Carnival and the streets were shaking,” she says. “There were bears, there were twinks, drag queens, you name it, a full sense of community.
“I vividly remember standing in front of the Colombian [Hotel] – this young girl from Adelaide – and just blown away by the sense of community and belonging. I had never felt that before.”
Wickett, who co-chaired Mardi Gras before taking over the helm of Sydney WorldPride, says Sydney’s annual Pride carnival saves lives. “There are people who have never felt that sense of community before, a place to go and belong.”
Oxford Street has traditionally been the heart of Sydney’s gay community, but Bondi has an equally powerful appeal to Wickett. “It’s beautiful to start with, but the real bond we have is thanks to a tight-knit group of guys who really took me under their wing when I first moved to Sydney,” she says.
Wickett and Brown are members of the Bondi Breakfast Club, the only women in a group of men who gather on the beach every Sunday to walk and swim in the soft sand before returning to their clubmates for breakfast.
Wickett says there’s a strict hierarchy of duties, starting with setting the table and toasting bread – simple chores she’s usually assigned – while the boys tend to the eggs.
“They are wonderful and incredibly generous with their time and friendship with me and my partner,” she says.
Home is a “little tiny apartment” in Elizabeth Bay that she shares with Brown and “my beautiful boy,” an eight-pound rescue dog named Freddy. Wickett pulls out her smartphone to show her a photo of him lying on a bed. “He has a lot of energy for big dogs,” she says. “We’re not exactly sure what he is, but he’s absolutely, absolutely divine.”
Wickett came to live with her parents when she was 16, who she says were “extremely supportive and always encouraged me to be myself.”
She credits them with instilling in her a “very hard work ethic” and a drive to volunteer – even though her job at Sydney WorldPride is one of seven management positions that paid $1.5 million in 2021-22.
Her childhood in Adelaide revolved around sports, playing backyard cricket with her sister and three brothers, who taught her how to catch a cricket ball “because if I didn’t catch it, it would hurt”.
Despite a supportive family, Wickett felt a sense of loneliness growing up.
“I think it had to do with school, you know, I mean, girls can be tough sometimes,” she says. “School was a challenge for me to fit in, but I think that proved to be a drive for me. I never want anyone to feel lonely or isolated like I do.”
In a relaxed, unpretentious manner, Wickett deftly steers the conversation away from contentious issues – corporate involvement, police sniffer dogs at WorldPride events – and onto the festival’s comprehensive programme, which includes Ultra Violet, a party at Sydney Town Hall, which is being announced as a premiere event for women at WorldPride.
She says Pride events around the world have traditionally been male-dominated.
“I’ve been to many, many prides around the world,” she says. “And it’s never escaped me that either there’s no women’s event, or it’s terribly underfunded and not particularly well produced.”
At one point, she notes, “Mardi Gras bashing is a Sydney pastime.”
For Wickett, sexism in the workplace was a bigger obstacle than homophobia.
She says she has been in the workplace “all my life” and only encountered anti-gay attitudes once, many years ago. “But I feel sexism and misogyny in some form almost every day,” she says. “And I think that speaks more broadly to our society and our community that we still don’t have gender equality.”
During her tenure as Sydney WorldPride leader, Wickett says she was overlooked at meetings.
“So many times I came in with Albert [Kruger], who is the CEO of Mardi Gras. We’re there for a WorldPride meeting and they go straight to Albert,” she says. “He’s wonderful and says, ‘Why are you looking at me? She’s the boss.”
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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/why-kate-wickett-is-certain-sydney-s-gay-mecca-won-t-disappoint-20230214-p5ckii.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw Sydney WorldPride boss specific city will not disappoint