It's been a year of healing
THIS week marks a year since the historical announcement that Australians had voted yes to legalising same-sex marriage.
In the Cowper electorate alone, a total of 95,810 residents returned the non-compulsory postal vote, with 60 per cent voting in support of marriage equality.
And for the local LGBTIQ community it has been a year of "healing”, particularly after the inevitable scrutiny that came hand-in-hand with the plebiscite, co-founder of LGBTIQ Coffs Connection and Community Group Tod Trappett says.
"We've had decades of so many people not being accepted. I can just feel and see the relief that it's finally here,” he said.
"It's quite emotional seeing all these couples that have been together for a long time, and now they're actually setting dates to get married.
"But the most exciting part now is seeing the younger generation coming through with marriage equality already a reality. The mature LGBTIQ community had fought so hard but this younger generation don't have to. It's amazing to see how confident these young people now are.
"A year ago, while the postal vote was happening, these kids were really depressed. But to look at the positives it actually brought up a lot of discussion in households. It was once the elephant in the room, but then all of a sudden families all around Australia were talking about it.”
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the yes vote, LGBTIQ Coffs Connection and Community Group with PFLAG Coffs Coast are holding Pridefest 2018 this weekend.
This will be the second Pridefest to take place in Coffs, after the inaugural event last year proved a success.
Pridefest aims to celebrate the LGBTIQ community in Coffs Harbour, taking the place of the annual CoastOut Festival which ceased running in 2015.
"I did notice a lot of homophobia in the Coffs area prior to CoastOut, but after it ran for a few years it was amazing to see how it eased a lot of it. I think locals began realising LGBTIQ people are harmless,” Mr Trappett said.
"But now a year on since the vote, and in reflection of the high percentage of people in this electorate that did vote yes, we thought it would be great to hold this celebration.”
Parul Punjabi, co-founder of LGBTIQ Coffs Connection and Community Group, said it was important to note everyone, regardless of their sexuality, was invited to attend the celebrations.
"It's a matter of building an inclusive community. All of us are different, and I think we should celebrate that.”
Where the celebrations will take place:
Fri from 5pm: Twilight Food Markets at Park Beach. There will be a champagne toast to celebrate one year since the yes vote.
Sat 9am-2pm: Park Beach Bowling Club. A barbecue breakfast and lunch, barefoot bowling, DJ, a movie, photo booth and dress up and more.
Sat 5pm-11pm: The Old Butter Factory. A bus will be available to take locals to Bellingen for Bent in Bellingen's celebrations.
Sat 2pm and 8pm: Les Miserables at the Jetty Theatre.
Sun 9am-noon: Harbourside Markets.
Sun noon-5pm: Yacht Club and Jetty Beach. Beers and beach volleyball.
Sun 2pm: Les Miserables.