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By  Gerard Gommeaux-Ward Smriti Daniel 20 February 2024 4 min read

Key points

  • Dr George Feast has represented our organisation at Mardi Gras all four times we have marched.
  • This year he is bringing this experience to our mentor network, supporting our marchers as they prepare for the parade.
  • George is proud to be a role model through being in a leadership role and openly identifying as queer.

The first time George Feast went to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, he was a spectator. Standing with his partner and other members of the Pride@CSIRO Network on the side of the road, he cheered as the incredible parade passed by.

The next year, he came ready to march. It was quite a different experience going behind the scenes.

"None of us knew what we were to expect or what to do," George says.

He didn’t let that slow him down. Honoured to be part of CSIRO's first float in the parade, George remembers donning a unique costume.

"I had this amazing blue sparkly outfit with sequinned shorts," George says. "It even had a cape that spread out to become lit-up wings."

George still has that outfit, which is now decorated in fur (courtesy of his cat who loves to perch on it). And he’s only added to his collection of Mardi Gras attire, with costumes and five Pride@CSIRO t-shirts.

Team CSIRO has represented at Mardi Gras four times, and George has been there every single time.

George's collection shows off how far we’ve come since our first Mardi Gras parade in 2019. And George points out our costuming has only stepped up with each year. It has become more adventurous and bold, wowing audiences along the way.

George says the reaction of the crowd has always been one of the biggest joys of participating.

"I remember that first time, people chanting ‘Science! Science!’ from the side of the road. That was really, really cool," he says.

Among his many treasured memories of Mardi Gras is having his musical hero appear at Mardi Gras 2022.

George has long loved Vanessa Amorosi’s smash hit 'Absolutely Everybody'. He would have it on repeat all the time if he could. Imagine his delight when in 2022, at the stadium, Vanessa stepped into the spotlight. She belted out the song while our team was nearby, right in the middle of the march. Suffice to say, it made George’s year.

George, pictured here with Lauren Pedri, represented Team CSIRO at Midsumma 2024.

Team mentor at Mardi Gras

Team CSIRO has marched in Mardi Gras four times, and George has been there every single time. He’s brought that experience to our mentor network. Now, he supports other marchers as they prepare for the big night.

"I've always been in charge of organising the after-party activities anyway, so I'll just have mentor as my official role now," George says.

As a mentor, he’ll be available to assist with first-timers and the crew with whatever is needed. It’s a critical role at a time where the number of our participants, and importantly participants that identify as LGBTQIA+, has grown dramatically.

"We started with 50 marchers, then last year, there were 70 people. The growth is fantastic to see," George says.

This year 80 people will march with Australia's national science agency, including representatives from Queers in Science.

Building a network of allies

Beyond the parade, George plays a significant role with us. As the Deputy Director of SME Connect, George looks after a number of programs to help start-ups and small-medium sized businesses connect with the research ecosystem.

This includes the CSIRO Kick-Start program, which provides facilitation and dollar-matched funding for SMEs to engage with CSIRO researchers.

George is conscious he’s among a few people in leadership roles who openly identifies as queer.

Visibility has been an important aspect for George.

"When we first launched Kick-Start, I spent a lot of time talking to businesses and to researchers," George says.

"Our team stays across everything that's happening across our organisation in terms of research."

George discovered the Pride@CSIRO Network around the time he joined the SME team.

"My friend Simon Lynch was one of the first in the Network, and I think they genuinely had about four people," he says.

From its early beginnings the Pride@CSIRO Network grew, merging with the fledgling ally network to form the large, diverse group it is today

A visible leader

George is conscious he’s among a handful of people in leadership roles at CSIRO who openly identify as queer. "It's important that people see that," he says.

Making newcomers to the team feel comfortable can start with some simple techniques. George finds just mentioning his partner in casual conversation can set people at ease.

"It helps signal we’re in a safe environment where we can be our whole selves," George says.

"CSIRO asks you to 'bring your whole self to work'. On my first day I sneakily mentioned my boyfriend as I didn't want to have those conversations later on. I bring my whole self to work, so everyone feels comfortable to do the same."

Sometimes just the conscious act of inclusivity can put someone at ease.

"Deliberately acting more inclusively and sharing more about yourself can really help others feel comfortable," he says.

George hosted the 2023 CSIRO Awards ceremony with colleague Rachel Rayner.

March like it’s Christmas

When it comes to Mardi Gras this year, George can tell you what to expect: a fabulous celebration, but with lots of waiting around.

Everyone gathers the day before to attend a briefing and practice session. The morning of the next day is spent getting ready, and then waiting in a park for their turn to march.

Past experience has taught George the importance of savouring every aspect of the experience.

"Time goes by so quickly, and then, you’re in the middle of it all. It’s like Gay Christmas," George said. "Of course, listen to your own body and what it needs, but you can always sleep afterwards."

"Live through the adrenaline and enjoy it like you might not get to go again."

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