The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress in Australia for the First Time
The monumental Amsterdam Rainbow Dress artwork (click here to learn more) has made its first visit to Australia to shine a light on the human rights issues affecting the global LGBTQIA+ community, ahead of the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference in March 2023.
Created in the Netherlands by Mattijs van Bergen, Arnout van Krimpen, Jochem Kaan and Oeri van Woezik, the dress is made from the national flags of the 71 countries where it is still illegal to be LGBTQI+ on penalty of imprisonment, torture or death. The list of countries is as compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World).
The dress’s arrival in Sydney comes as the harbour city prepares to welcome 1,500 community leaders, activists, politicians and human rights experts from across the globe to the International Conference Centre, Sydney (ICC) for the Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference. Taking place from 1 to 3 March 2023, it will tackle the key human rights issues facing LGBTQIA+ communities around the world, and is the largest event of its kind ever to be held in the region.
The topics being discussed at the conference include the protection of LGBTQIA+ refugees and people seeking asylum; access to supportive and affirming healthcare for LGBTQIA+ people; the future of inclusive sport; and the international effort to end unnecessary procedures performed on intersex people without their consent.
Eight New Human Rights Conference Speakers Announced
A further eight speakers and presenters have been confirmed for the Human Rights Conference, bringing the total confirmed number of presenters to 18.
These renowned presenters come from as far and wide as St Lucia and China, and include Senator Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender person election to a state senate in the United States. The new speakers confirmed today are:
- Phylesha Brown-Acton (she/her), Fakafifine, MVPFAFF+, LGBTQ+ rights activist and Executive Director, F’INE Pasifika Aotearoa Trust (Niue / Aotearoa – New Zealand)
- Professor Paula Gerber (she/her), internationally renowned scholar, international human rights lawyer and Professor of Law at Monash University (Australia)
- Nancy Kelley (she/her), Chief Executive Officer of Stonewall UK, human rights advocate & policy adviser (United Kingdom)
- Steph Lum (they/them), Intersex advocate, researcher, poet and founder of YOUth&I (Australia)
- Senator Sarah McBride (she/her), first openly transgender person elected to a state senate in the United States (United States of America)
- Kenita Placide (they/them/she/her), human rights, HIV and LGBT activist, the Founder and Executive Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity & Equality (St Lucia)
- Yanzi Peng (he/him), Executive Director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China (China)
- Dr Senthorun Raj (he/him), Associate Professor in Human Rights Law (Manchester Law School) and Chair of Amnesty International UK (United Kingdom)
Chief Executive of Sydney WorldPride 2023, Kate Wickett, said: “The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is a powerful symbol of the very real threats that members of the LGBTQIA+ community still face on a daily basis around the world.
“Here in Australia, many of us are lucky now to live relatively safe lives thanks to tireless campaigning for equal rights, but there are still many issues that affect LGBTQIA+ communities right across Australia, especially for trans and gender-diverse people.
“The Human Rights Conference is a major opportunity for community leaders, lawmakers and human rights experts from across the world to come together. For the Asia Pacific region, it is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and enduring spirit of the LGBTQIA+ community, and to push for progress at home and internationally.”
Skip to the full biographies below by clicking here.
Amsterdam Rainbow Dress
At a massive 16m (52ft) in diameter, the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is a striking and poignant reminder of the challenges that LGBTQIA+ communities around the world continue to face. As a sign of hope, each time a country changes its law, its national flag is replaced by a rainbow one.
The dress has travelled across the world to countries as diverse as Canada, Mozambique, Argentina, Sweden and Poland. It highlights the human rights issues affecting the global LGBTQIA+ community, with the aim of encouraging debate and awareness about inclusion and equal rights across the globe.
The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is being modelled by Sydney-based actor, theatre critic and trans woman, Suzy Wrong, to highlight the discrimination members of the trans and gender diverse community face, both in Australia and around the world.
Dress creator, Arnout Van Krimpen, from the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation, said: “It is a privilege to bring the dress to Australia for the first time to mark the upcoming Sydney WorldPride festival.
“The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is a symbol of freedom – the most precious thing we have. The choice to exclude LGBTQIA+ people from legal protection doesn’t just endanger the community but society as a whole.
“As well as advocating to end anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, this work of art highlights the importance of preserving the freedoms we have won.”
Ymania Brown, a proudly Samoan born, Fa’afafine trans woman, from Australian national LGBTIQ+ organisation, Equality Australia, the lead community partner for the Sydney WorldPride human right conference, said:
“The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is a powerful embodiment of the global journey toward equality for people who face serious discrimination and harm based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or variations in sex characteristics.
“After decades of work by activists from affected communities, many countries have repealed laws that criminalised people on the basis of who they are or who they love, but still 71 countries criminalise sexual acts between people of the same sex and 13 countries directly criminalise the gender identity or expression of trans and gender diverse people while many more disproportionately target trans and gender diverse people under other criminal laws.
“We are also seeing a wave of anti-equality activism targeting gender diverse people, across the world. This work threatens not just to slow or prevent the decriminalisation of trans and gender diverse people, but to wind back the hard-fought gains for these communities, including here in Australia.
“That’s why it is so timely that Sydney WorldPride is presenting the Human Rights Conference in March 2023, to shine a light on the issues facing our communities around the world and to bring together activists and decision-makers to build a better world, where LGBTIQ+ people are free and equal, no matter who we are, or who we love.”
Geoff Donaghy, CEO at ICC Sydney, said: “The presentation of the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress marks an important milestone as we prepare to host the largest LGBTQIA+ Human Rights Conference ever held in the Asia Pacific region at ICC Sydney in March 2023.
“Diversity at ICC Sydney is about recognising and valuing the different knowledge, skills, backgrounds and perspectives that people bring regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, social background or sexual orientation. Our diverse workforce is our strength and we look forward to delivering the best guest experience to the people that we are dedicated to serving.”
The full list of 71 countries (click here to view) represented on the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, ILGA World.
Thanks to the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation for allowing the dress to be in Sydney.
Equality Australia is leading the development of the Sydney WorldPride human rights conference program together with a coalition of community partners and International Advisory Board.
Sydney WorldPride is proudly supported by: Principal Partner, American Express; Presenting Partner, Coles; Strategic Partner, Destination NSW; and Government Partner, City of Sydney.
For more information contact:
Matt Fraser, Original Spin – [email protected]
Phylesha Brown-Acton, MNZM (she/her)
Phylesha Brown-Acton is a Fakafifine woman and hails from the village of Fineone Hakupu Atua, Niue Island. She is the Executive Director of F’INE Pasifika Aotearoa Trust (pronounced Fee-neh), a Pacific Whānau Ora funded organisation that provides navigation support services to MVPFAFF+ & Pacific LGBTQI+ people and their families in the Auckland region.
Phylesha has served on regional boards such as ILGA Oceania, ILGA World, IAS and ICASO. For over 25 years, her work has been rooted in advancing the voice, visibility and rights of MVPFAFF+ / Pacific LGBTQI+ people and their families for over 25 years.
Phylesha is a Co-investigator for New Zealand’s first MVPFAFF+ / Pacific LGBTQI+ / Rainbow Well-being study called The Manalagi Project (click here to learn more), as well as the Co-Chairperson of the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN).
She has received a number of accolades including a Queen’s Honour (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, MNMZ) for her service to MVPFAFF+ / Pacific LGBTQI+ communities & Pacific communities.
As well as her advocacy work, Phylesha is a weaver, dancer, storyteller and navigator.
Professor Paula Gerber (she/her)
Paula Gerber is a Professor in the Faculty of Law at Monash University and a leading expert on protecting and promoting the human rights of LGBTIQA+ persons. She has written numerous journal articles and book chapters on issues relating to persons of diverse genders and sexualities, and is the editor of the 3-volume research series Worldwide Perspectives on Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals, (2020) and the 2-volume collection Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia (2021) (with Melissa Castan).
Paula is also a Director of Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation working to protect the human rights of LGBTIQA+ persons in the Asia-Pacific region.
Nancy Kelley (she/her)
Nancy Kelley is Chief Executive of Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ human rights organisation, which is part of a global movement for change. Inside Stonewall, this means working to make sure colleagues can thrive and make a difference to LGBTQ+ communities. Outside Stonewall, this means working with LGBTQ+ activists here in the UK and around the world, as well as with our partners and supporters. Together, we’re building a path towards the world we imagine, where LGBTQ+ people everywhere are free to be themselves and can live their lives to the full.
Before joining Stonewall, Nancy worked to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, for people experiencing mental distress, for refugees and migrants, and for people living in poverty. In the early part of her career, she worked in policy and advocacy roles, and more recently she worked in roles focused on research and insight. It has been a privilege to have a career where she gets to come to work every day and try and make society fairer and more inclusive, and to be Chief Executive of Stonewall is a dream come true.
Steph Lum (they/them)
Steph Lum is an intersex advocate, poet and legal researcher based on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land.
Steph strongly believes in youth intersex voices and founded YOUth&I in 2019, a publication of writings and artwork by young intersex people from around the world, in order to help establish a platform for young intersex creatives to share and be visible. YOUth&I engages intersex people throughout the publication and translation process and is currently in its third issue.
Steph is involved in intersex legal and policy reform and takes a human rights-based approach to their research and advocacy.Steph was a member of the ACT LGBTIQ+ Ministerial Advisory Council (2016-2020), a co-Chair and board member of Intersex Human Rights Australia (2017, 2019) and was previously a project officer on the intersex project at the Australian Human Rights Commission (2018). Steph is a signatory to the 2017 Darlington Statement, an Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand intersex community consensus statement that outlines the priorities and calls for action of the local intersex community.
Steph also writes poetry to help share intersex experiences in new ways. Through poetry, Steph hopes to connect with intersex people and help endosex people feel, even for a moment, what it can be like to live with bodies that are different. Steph has been published in the Australian Poetry Anthology and Not Very Quiet.
Senator Sarah McBride (she/her)
Raised in Wilmington in the First Senate District, she has been involved in community advocacy for most of her life, including working for former Governor Jack Markell, the late Attorney General Beau Biden, and as a White House intern during the Obama Administration. Most recently, she served as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ equal rights organization.
McBride has taught public policy at the University of Delaware and is the author of the 2018 memoir, Tomorrow Will Be Different.
For her work and advocacy, former Gov. Markell awarded McBride the Order of the First State, making her one of the youngest Delawareans granted the state’s highest civilian honor. When McBride was elected in November 2020, she became the first openly transgender state senator in American history. As a state senator, McBride has passed legislation expanding access to health care, requiring mental health and media literacy education in public schools, promoting green technologies, and protecting workers and families. In just her first term, McBride passed the landmark Healthy Delaware Families Act, providing paid family and medical leave to workers throughout the First State and marking the largest expansion of Delaware’s social safety net in decades
Kenita Placide (they/them, she/her)
Kenita Placide is the founder and Executive Director of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality(ECADE). They previously served as the Outright Action International’s Caribbean Advisor for 2 years and Executive Director of United and Strong Inc for ten years, having advocated around HIV and human rights inclusive of women, youth and LGBTI issues, for over 18 years. Seeking to remove barriers of patriarchy in LGBT advocacy on a feminist platform, Kenita has worn many hats to bring attention and funding to the smaller islands in the eastern Caribbean, and works on a regional and international level. A runner up for the LGBT Intergroup’s GO Visible Award in 2012, she is the mind behind the planning and implementing of many Caribbean regional sessions. She was named the People-Person-of-The-Year by the Star Newspaper in 2013 and in 2016 one of many called to honor as a Champion of Change by the Pan Caribbean Partnership for HIV/AIDS (PANCAP). Kenita was also nominated by the US Embassy in Bridgetown to participate in the 2016 International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) called Human and Civil Rights for the LGBTI Community in the United States.
Yanzi Peng (he/him)
Yanhui Peng (aka Yanzi) is the founder and director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a visiting scholar at Yale Law School. Peng founded LGBT Rights Advocacy China in 2013 to advance LGBT equality through China’s legal system. LGBT Rights Advocacy China built professional networks of lawyers and journalists, and supported impact litigation against conversion therapy, employment discrimination, media censorship, and homophobic university textbooks. In 2019, Peng and his colleagues started a campaign to submit proposals to lawmakers that called for legalizing same-sex marriage in China’s Civil Code, catalyzing a large number of submissions and drawing significant attention to the issue. Peng is one of the 5 Grand Marshals of NYC Pride celebrating the 50th anniversary in 2020. From 2007 to 2013, Peng was a program manager at Sun Yat-Sen University’s Institute for Civil Society, and in 2019 he was a visiting scholar at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law. At the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center, Peng is conducting research and writing on the parental rights of LGBT people.
Dr Senthorun Raj (he/him)
Dr Senthorun (Sen) Raj is an Associate Professor in Human Rights Law at Manchester Law School and chair of Amnesty International UK. He is passionate about glitter, unicorns, pop culture, and social justice.
Sen’s academic and advocacy work take an intersectional approach to examining the relationship between emotion, culture, law, and LGBTIQ rights in different jurisdictions. He is the author of Feeling Queer Jurisprudence: Injury, Intimacy, Identity (Routledge) and co-editor of The Queer Outside in Law: Recognising LGBTIQ People in the United Kingdom (Palgrave). Sen is currently co-convening The Queer Judgements Project, a collaboration that brings together lawyers, activists, and academics from across the world to re-imagine and re-write legal decisions relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.
Sen has been a Lecturer in Law at Keele University (2017-2021), a Scholar in Residence at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (2015-16), and a Churchill Fellow (2012-13). Has was the inaugural chair of Black Gold Arts (2018-21), an arts charity in Manchester that platforms LGBTIQ people of colour. Closer to home, Sen worked as the Senior Policy Advisor for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (2009-12) and was on the boards of ACON (2011-15) and Amnesty International Australia (2013-15).