Beaming with pride at Mardi Gras

By Arli Fender-Barnett

1 March 2019

4 minute read

Update: Check out all the highlights from our first Mardi Gras parade. We had an amazing time and thank everyone for all your kind words of support for the team.

You may have noticed we’ve had a fabulous rainbow makeover recently.  Perhaps you saw the stunning image of six of the 12-metre wide antennas located in remote Western Australia each reflecting a colour of the rainbow against the backdrop of the Milky Way.

We’re beaming with colour because for the first time ever, your National Science Agency will be strutting its stuff in the rainbow, glittery haze of Sydney’s famous Oxford street as part of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

We will be there celebrating our continuous commitment to diversity, showcasing some of our talented and fabulous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community.

50 CSIRO staff members will be dancing up a rainbow storm, holding a giant double helix (DNA) to show that not only is our science diverse – from protecting the Great Barrier Reef and water purification technology, to crease-free cotton and 3D printed bones – but so are our people.

It is through our people and their diverse culture that CSIRO can imagine, invent, and innovate solutions to Australia’s greatest challenges. Diversity is in our DNA, and our LGBTQI+ community is part of that DNA. In fact, research from the Diversity Council Australia says people who work in an inclusive team are nine times more likely to innovate, and ten times more likely to be highly effective than workers in non-inclusive teams.

We want people to bring their whole selves to work, to create a healthier, happier workplace where people are truly empowered and free to innovate and shape the future. But first, let’s take a short moonwalk back in time to where it all began.

A photo of five telescopes lit in the colours of the rainbow, for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

🌈Our Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is the world’s fastest survey radio telescope. We’ve lit ASKAP up in a rainbow of colours to celebrate our first ever participation in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. 🌈

Pride@CSIRO

From humble pub-chat beginnings to a fully- fledged professional network with around 150 members, our pride network is a professional and social community for LGBTQI+ identifying employees and other friendly staff or allies. Our pride network actively contributes to our aim of becoming a fully inclusive workplace where every individual is valued and feels comfortable to bring their whole self to work.

Simon Lynch, one of the founding members of the pride network talks us through the journey of Pride@CSIRO and the need for a diverse, inclusive workplace.

“In 2013 I was taking part in an internal program with two colleagues, we identified as ‘happy to be out’ at CSIRO and were wondering if there was something in the organisation to support people like us and others so we co-founded the initial staff network for LGBTQI+ staff” Simon said.

“We all found it comfortable being ourselves and bringing our whole selves to work but we knew that not everyone felt that way – we had heard of one staff member that didn’t feel comfortable being out at work because they thought they didn’t fit their team’s expectations of a ‘scientist’.

“We couldn’t see anything visible supporting identifying staff and LGBTQI+ issues. It felt like people lacked a consciousness regarding identifying staff” he said.

Fast forward a few years, and we’re now an integrated activity that drives change for a healthier, happier workplace where people are truly empowered and free to innovate and shape the future.

“It grew from being a group of supportive friends, to a more formal network in 2016, with allies welcome and a close connection with CSIRO’s Diversity and Inclusion team” Simon said.

“It makes me feel incredibly proud to work for CSIRO, I feel a sense of joy that we have come so far in such a short space of time, the organisation is serious about listening and responding to LGBTQI+ staff.

“They have put the walk with the talk – changing systems (gender recognition – avoiding binary), and support (online info and the inclusion of a specific specialist councillor through our Employee Assistance Program.)

“CSIRO is a great place to work and to build a STEM career; because it is a really inclusive, respectful place to work that harnesses diversity that people bring” he said.

Marching for Mardi Gras

csiro staff dancing in rainbow t-shirts

We’re so excited and we just can’t hide it!

In a last-minute dash of sequin-sewing craft-a-noons and dance rehearsals, Simon and the CSIRO marching crew are pumped for this weekend’s parade.

“I am overjoyed to be walking with such a strong contingent of colleagues who are celebrating our uniqueness and our togetherness and as a first-time marcher – I’m most looking forward to the crowd roar, music, freedom to express who we are and to be ourselves” Simon said.

Beth Farrell from the pride network is also among our marchers taking part in the colourful parade.

“As a proud member of the LGBTIQ community, I march to celebrate who we are, how lucky we can be, what we can and will achieve, what has been achieved and most of all, for those who are unable to come out, who don’t feel safe to do so, who haven’t been as fortunate as some! you are you, so do you fabulously” Beth said.

In Sydney? Please come along to the parade and give our marchers a big cheer! If you can’t be there, feel free to send your love and support via our social media channels which will sparkle in rainbow to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community during Mardi Gras.

AND if you really want to wear your #CSIROpride on your sleeves, make sure you like us on Facebook for your chance to win one of ten of our limited edition rainbow Mardi Gras t-shirts. If you can’t wait, you can also purchase one over on our merch portal – but get in quick because orders close on Friday 8 March.