Cher, colour, glitter light up Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras chief executive Terese Casu says the event helps celebrate hard-fought victories.
Mardi Gras chief executive Terese Casu says the event helps celebrate hard-fought victories.
More than 12,000 people will take part in the 40th Mardi Gras parade down Sydney's Oxford Street.

More than 12,000 people will take part in the 40th Mardi Gras parade down Sydney's Oxford Street.

Pop superstar Cher has joined the Sydney Mardi Gras parade, delighting fans in the crowd.

Pop superstar Cher has joined the Sydney Mardi Gras parade, delighting fans in the crowd.

Sydney has shimmered with pride and glitter as about 300,000 people celebrate 40 years since the first Mardi Gras parade and marked the first since same-sex marriage became legal in Australia.

Confetti, glitter and rainbow flags lined Oxford Street for Saturday's 40th-anniversary parade with festivities high as the LGBTIQ community celebrated their night of nights.

Skimpy outfits, budgy smugglers, streamers, feathers and flags brightened the famous route as crowds cheered on.

But it was international pop superstar Cher who brought the parade to a standstill.

Sporting bright orange hair and walking with dancers holding large purple letters of her name, the gay icon arrived to the tune of Turn Back Time.

The singer, who is the headline act for the after-party, had been rumoured to make an appearance in the parade and about 8pm, the crowd began chanting her name as she stepped out into Taylor Square.

Among those to join the throng was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy, who made an appearance on Oxford Street after the Dykes on Bikes and Boys on Bikes kicked off the evening's festivities.

Mr Turnbull described the parade as a "wonderful part of Sydney".

"It's 40 years old and 40 years ago Lucy and I had our first date so our love affair is a result of Mardi Gras," Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten was part of the Rainbow Labor float with his wife Chloe and deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek.

"Just talking to everyday Australians, people are so happy that we voted for marriage equality," he told reporters.

Labor Senate leader Penny Wong, Liberal Senator Dean Smith and Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale joined together on the Equality Campaign float.

About 200 floats made their way up the popular strip, including a group of 250 people who were involved in the original 1978 demonstration and subsequent riot.

Among them was 78er Peter De Waal who said Australia's transformation has been liberating.

"Forty years ago there were no spectators, there was just us and today there is a wonderful community that has welcomed us," he told AAP.

More than 12,000 people took part in this year's parade including Maude Boate, who has travelled from Broken Hill in far west NSW and isn't new to the Mardi Gras scene.

"It's about my 30th Mardi Gras," she told AAP in Sydney on Saturday.

"It's a wonderful night and what a wonderful milestone it is for equality."

For Kobie Howe and Katrina Stouppos, it's the first time they have been able to celebrate Mardi Gras as a legally married couple in Australia.

"This year we are marching with marriage equality, it's an important year given what's happened last year," Ms Howe told AAP.

"It's a great time to celebrate everyone's individuality, differences and diversity."

The couple, who has been together for eight years, brought along their four-year-old daughter Mackie.

When asked what Mardi Gras meant to her, Mackie simply answered "marriage equality".

Australian Associated Press