Many of those in attendance at Ulumbarra Theatre on Friday night had never been to a ball.
Some were never afforded the chance.
Others may have felt uncomfortable being at an event where they couldn’t be themselves.
Not on Friday.
The inaugural Rainbow Ball was more than a celebration of LGBTIQ diversity in Bendigo.
It was an appreciation and symbol of how far both the LGBTIQ and the wider community had come.
The event had a mix of those who identify as LGBTIQ but, crucially, organisers said, it was open to the wider community.
City of Greater Bendigo senior inclusive communities officer Nikki Williams said the initial idea for the ball was to replicate a debutante ball, an event which some may have missed out on.
Ms Williams said there was a general feeling that having an open event would be beneficial to everyone.
Castlemaine resident Judzea said the ball signified a sense of acceptance and safety.
“To be able to hold my partner’s hand and feel safe is amazing,” she said.
LGBTIQ elder Noel Hourigan said the night, for him, was a culmination of years of campaigning to change laws.
“This is the fruition of our struggle,” he said.
“It’s amazing to see the change in societies’ perceptions that we can get to this point, with all the youngsters enjoying themselves and feeling safe.”
Bendigo police was also in attendance.
Senior Constable Chris Thomson, a Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer, said it was important police attended to show the community they had the support of police and were there for them.
Maree Dixon and Jenny Singe, both from Headspace, said the event was a culmination of a few months’ work.
“It’s great to see so much happiness, people being free and being themselves,” Ms Dixon said.
Around 100 people attended the event, made possible thanks to a grant from the ANZ and Sydney Mardi Gras.
A guard of honour made up of elders from Bendigo’s LGBTIQ community greeted attendees, who were mainly aged under 25.
Headspace in Bendigo is a partner with Healthy Equal Youth, a state government-funded initiative working across suicide prevention and social inclusion for LGBTIQ young people who remain at risk of poor mental health outcomes.
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