Sydney WorldPride Recognises 12 Rainbow Champions From Across Australia

A photo from the Rainbow Champions event 30 August with everyone striking a fun pose and smiling. From left to right Jessica Johnson, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jane Marsden, Albert Kruger, Kate Wicket, Kerry Chin and Katherine Wolfgramme

Ahead of the first ever WorldPride festival in the Southern Hemisphere in 2023, Sydney WorldPride is today celebrating the achievements of 12 more members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia by honouring them as Rainbow Champions.

The 12 Rainbow Champions hail from across Australia and touch all corners of the LGBTQIA+ community, with trans activists, actors, performers, classical musicians and community leaders all being recognised today.

Over the coming months, Sydney WorldPride will be recognising a total of 45 Rainbow Champions, representing the 45 years since the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which took place on 24 June 1978.

All 45 Champions have been chosen for their contribution to Australian LGBTQIA+ community and culture. Today’s 12 Champions have been named as:

  • Lawrence Bing (he/him) (NSW) – a transman and social media star who has shared his transition journey to his hundreds of thousands of followers.
  • Caroline Bowditch (she/her) (VIC) – a performance artist and choreographer, recently named the CEO of Arts Access Victoria.
  • Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO (she/her) (VIC) – a Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and artistic director of Short Black  Opera, who has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 30 years.
  • Kerry Chin (he/him) (NSW) – an aromantic, asexual, autistic, and transgender community leader who works with Australian Asexuals to spread awareness of specific human rights issues affecting asexual people.
  • Jessica Johnson (she/her) (NSW) – a Warramungu Wombaya artist, graphic designer and advocate. Founder of design agency, Nungala Creative, which created Sydney WorldPride’s iconic branding.
  • Keiynan Lonsdale (he/him) (VIC) – actor, dancer and singer-songwriter known for his role in Hollywood films such as Love, Simon and The Divergent Series: Insurgent.
  • Steph Lum (they/them) (ACT) – intersex advocate, researcher and poet with a background in government legal policy. Founder of YOUth&I, a publication that shares writings and artwork by young intersex people.
  • Crystal Love (she/her) (NT) – Sistergirl, First Nations Elder and mentor to the Sistergirl community of the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.
  • Jane Marsden (she/her) (NSW) – a long-standing LGBTQIA+ campaigner who has been a prominent figure in Sydney’s LGBTQIA+ community since the 1980s and was a Director at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
  • Steven Oliver (he/him) (QLD) – an actor, comedian, playwright and poet who is a descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi peoples.
  • Katherine Wolfgramme FRSA (she/her) (NSW) – a nationally recognised trans advocate, award-winning Gender Diversity Consultant and Trans Awareness trainer and educator.
  • William Yang (he/him) (NSW) – an artist and photographer who explores issues of cultural and sexual identity, integrating these with writing, performance and film.

Sydney WorldPride’s Chief Executive, Kate Wickett, said: “The perseverance, hard-work and sheer presence of all the Rainbow Champions being honoured today have contributed to important advances for Australia’s LGBTQIA+ community.

“From actors to operatic stars, to grass-roots activists and influencers, all the Champions we are celebrating today have made a significant contribution to the community and culture.  

“There is still much more to do to achieve equality for all LGBTQIA+ people, but I am hopeful that by recognising the achievements of these Rainbow Champions, we can build on our collective success and continue momentum for the future.”

A total of 15 Rainbow Champions has been announced to date and today’s honourees join three previously announced Rainbow Champions: Peter de Waal AM, author, gay history documenter, researcher, life-long activist, and “78er”; Narelda Jacobs a Whadjuk Noongar journalist and presenter hailing from Boorloo/Perth now living on Gadigal Country in Sydney; and Rudy Jean Rigg, LGBTQIA+ advocate, host of the wildly-popular Rainbow History Class and TransAthletica.

Sydney WorldPride is a mega Mardi Gras festival taking place from 17 February to 5 March 2023. Over 17 days, Sydney will host more than 300 LGBTQIA+ events, including Rainbow Republic, Ultra Violet and Live & Proud: the Sydney WorldPride Opening Concert, as well as the much-loved Mardi Gras Parade, which will be returning to Oxford Street for the first time in three years. 

Tickets for selected Sydney WorldPride events are now on sale, with further events being released later in the year. 

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Lawrence Bing (he/him)

Lawrence Bing is a bisexual transman who based is western Sydney. He is a content creator and an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.

He posts daily content for those inside or outside of our LGBTQ+ community, to help guide those who are wishing to support others or educate themselves.

Since he started in 2015, he has loved sharing his transitioning story and his goal is to help others through his content.

Caroline Bowditch (she/her)

Caroline Bowditch is the Chief Executive Officer/Artistic Director of Arts Access Victoria and the Creative Lead of the Alter State Festival.

Caroline Bowditch enjoyed an acclaimed career in the UK for over 16 years as a performance maker and industry leader. Caroline was Scottish Dance Theatre’s Dance Agent for Change (2008-2012). She was an Director of Dance with Paragon Music (Glasgow), Dance4 (Nottingham) and Imaginate (Scotland), and was Visiting Professor at Coventry University. She has been a regular consultant on accessibility and inclusive practice to Skånes Dansteater, Sweden, and the British Council.

Caroline’s performance works include Leaving Limbo Landing (2012), an Unlimited festival commission for the Cultural Olympiad, Falling in Love with Frida (2014), which was awarded a prestigious Herald Angel award, and children’s works, The Adventures of Snigel and Snigel and Friends (2016) which was nominated for a Total Theatre Award, Edinburgh Festival(2017).

Caroline returned to Australia to lead Arts Access Victoria. During her tenure, Caroline has developed strong partnerships with Arts Centre Melbourne, Regional Arts Victoria, MAV (formerly Multicultural Arts Victoria), Melbourne Fringe Festival, Music Victoria and many more. Caroline’s strong advocacy has resulted in significant reform of funding programs for Deaf and Disabled artists. Caroline has overseen the development of a new Strategic Plan at Arts Access Victoria and led the organisation through a successful transition to hybrid delivery throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Arts Access Victoria’s vision is cultural equity for all Deaf and Disabled people. Caroline’s leadership is grounded in delivering on this vision in the years ahead.

Deborah Cheetham AO (she/her)

Deborah Cheetham has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years. She describes herself as 21st century urban woman who is Yorta Yorta by birth, stolen generation by policy, soprano by diligence, composer by necessity and lesbian by practice.

In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Cheetham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for “distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance”. 

In 2009, she established Short Black Opera as a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers, and the following year premiered Pecan Summer, Australia’s first indigenous opera, which has helped develop a new generation of Indigenous opera singers. She has also written numerous other works, including Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace, which premiered to sold out audiences.

Deborah Cheetham has been awarded numerous awards and accolades for her pioneering work, including being inducted onto the Honour Roll of Women in Victoria, receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia, being named the Composer-in-Residence for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and winning the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Music.

Kerry Chin (he/him)

Kerry Chin is an aromantic, asexual, autistic, and transgender beacon of visibility, most often seen riding around Sydney on an iconic bicycle. 

He has a substantial media portfolio, representing the asexual community on Triple J Hack, You Can’t Ask That, Abbie Chats, and in various interviews in both English and Chinese. He has also done modelling in the Bonds Pride Portrait Exhibition, Outing Disability, and various ACON photoshoots. Behind the scenes, he brings the aromantic and asexual perspectives to various advisory roles, such as Autism Spectrum Australia’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee and ACON’s People with Disabilities Co-Design Advisory Group.

In the online space, Kerry has helped organise Aussie Ace Week events, and spoke at various international asexuality events such as PANACEA: Asexuality Asia Conference and the International Asexuality Conference 2021. He provides advice on Tumblr as part of the Asexual Advice and Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week group blogs, and volunteers as a translator with AUREA and International Asexuality Day. He is also an admin of various asexual community Facebook groups and Discord servers.

Kerry has helped organise various Mardi Gras floats over the years. Some of his favourites include the “Fly Free from Religion” and “No Exemption to Anti-Discrimination Laws for Religions” with Sydney Queer Atheists, and “Neurodiversity Rainbow” with Autism Spectrum Australia.

Kerry works as an electrical engineer in the rail industry. Alongside this specialised technical work, he extends his asexual visibility to multiple workplace LGBTQIA+ networks, including Pride and Ally Transport Network, Pride in NSW, and InterEngineer.

Kerry’s account of his transgender experience is published in the anthology Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words.

Jessica Johnson (she/her)

Nungala Creative is the love child of Warramungu, Wombaya woman Jessica Johnson, the  brain behind this intersectional, hyper-coloured, multidisciplinary design brand and label.

Nungala is an expression of lived experience and commitment to a better future for First Nations people, centred around LGBTQ+ visibility, representation and wellbeing.

Jessica is also the artist behind Sydney WorldPride’s logo and festival artwork, inspired by the big, multigenerational queer First Nations community that she belongs to.

The design expresses intersectionality through vibrancy, colours and textures. The tactile, hands-on, textural aesthetic is a nod to the nostalgic tools of our predecessors and an era of people power and protest definitive in our existence today. The electric colour palette draws from the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and the wondrous magic our country has on offer.

Keiynan Lonsdale (he/him)

Born and raised in Western Sydney’s St Mary’s, Keiynan Lonsdale (aka Rainbow Boy) has gone from making his musical theatre debut straight out of high school in Fame – The Musical, to becoming a Hollywood star.

Keiynan’s first role was on Aussie screens with ABC’s boundary breaking hit television drama series, Dance Academy, simultaneously becoming the face of MTV Australia & New Zealand at just 19 years old. This career momentum and non-stop determination led him to try his luck overseas, eventually landing his first US role in the box office smash The Divergent Series, appearing in both  Insurgent and Allegiant. The only way from there was up – he was cast in Disney Pictures’ The Finest Hours, then following up with the iconic Superhero role of Wally West/Kid Flash in CW’s The Flash. In 2018, Keiynan won an MTV Movie Award for his role in Love, Simon, got a #1 Netflix hit with Work It’ as well as appearing as a guest judge on the internationally popular RuPaul’s Drag Race.

A bold and colourful music career has seen Keiynan reach exciting heights, garnering over 51 million Spotify streams, and releasing his original music on the debut album Rainbow Boy, garnering acclaim from Rolling Stone, GLAAD, Fader, and Billboard, the latter inviting him to perform a mini-concert as part of their Pride at Home Series.

Keiynan’s awards and recognitions include GQ Australia’s Actor of the Year, and the NYC LGBT Centre for the Youth Advocacy Award.

Keiynan can currently be seen leading Amazon Prime’s My Fake Boyfriend, and will next star alongside Ne-Yo and Christina Milian in Starz/Lionsgate’s series Step Up.

Crystal Love (she/her)

Crystal Love is Australian and Northern Territory royalty. Living between Darwin and the Tiwi Islands, she’s the queen of the Island, respected for being the loving and caring person she is.

When Crystal is in a show, she is always a headlining act!

Crystal is called “Aunty” because she is an elder in a big family of Tiwi Sistergirls and Brotherboys. Comedy and sass are what she does best! She has represented her community at the United Nations plus many festivals and events around Australia and the world. She is the star of the award winning documentary ‘BLACK DIVAZ’ and can be found performing around Darwin and the world.

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.

Jane Marsden (she/her)

Jane commenced her career in the LGBTI+ communities later than many, starting in her mid to late twenties after learning of and understanding her own difference. 

In the early eighties she joined the organising committee of a Western Suburbs Social Group called Scandal. Then after moving into the inner city in the early nineties, she was appointed to the Board of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras on which she served for five years. Shortly thereafter she joined the Board of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Community Publishing Ltd (Sydney Star Observer).

Jane was one of nine founding directors of The Aurora Group – A Ruby Foundation.  For the 40th Anniversary of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, with the help of many, Jane conceived and produced Special Moments and Memories – The Other 39’ers float in honour of the thousands of volunteers, staff and activists who nurtured and supported Mardi Gras since the first protest march in 1978. She has remained an active participant in the community recently as an advocate for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Community Workshop and on the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Constitution Review Committee.

Steven Oliver (he/him)

Steven Oliver is a descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi peoples and is one of Australia’s most beloved performers. 

He was born in Cloncurry in Northwest Queensland and grew up in Townsville. He has worked with numerous theatre companies, festivals and arts organisations across Australia but became notorious with ABC’s Logie/AACTA nominated sketch comedy show Black Comedy as a writer/actor/associate producer.

His multitude of Season One characters saw him launched into popular culture but it was his over the top, fabulously camp and highly competitive creations ‘The Tiddas’ that cemented him as one of Australia’s leading funny people that led to a Favourite Comedy Performer of the Decade nomination at the 2020 AACTA awards. Season Two of Black Comedy saw him grab the opportunity to marry ‘The Tiddas’ and make a statement on marriage equality. Little did he know at the time that he had written and acted in the first ever televised  marriage of an Australian gay couple on Australian screens while simultaneously, only the second ever marriage between an indigenous couple in the history of Australian television.

Other Film/TV roles include Tiger Cops and A Very Sexy Xmas for ABC/Iview. He is co-creator/writer/presenter for Indigenous Arts Quiz Show Faboriginal as well as the documentary Looky Looky Here ComesCooky which was awarded Best Documentary/Factual Single at the inaugural Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) Awards. He featured in the critically acclaimed documentaries Occupation Native and History Bites Back both presented by Trisha Morton-Thomas under the direction of Craig Anderson (SBS/NITV).

He was a recipient of Screen Australia’s Blackspace Initiative for his premiere web series A Chance Affair, that went on to be nominated for best web series at both the 2018 LGBTIQ Australian Awards and Screen Producers Australia Awards. He has done voice work on Australia’s first Indigenous Superhero animation, Zero Point, and cameoed as Cousin Carlo in Marvel Studio’s Thor: Ragnarok, under the direction of Taika Waititi.

His poetry is published in both national and international poetry journals such as Ora Nui, Australian Poetry Journal, Solid Air and Firefront. His plays Proppa Solid (Jute Theatre) and From Darkness (La Boite Theatre) are published by Playlab, both plays receiving audience and critical acclaim. His poetry and comedic work collectively have garnered several million views online.

Stephen is currently nearing the end of a successful national tour of his one-man cabaret show. Premiering at the 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Bigger & Blacker was listed as an AdCabFave. It has since played La Boite Theatre Brisbane, Sydney Opera House, Malthouse Theatre as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival (Winner – Cabaret of the week and overall First Nations show), Perth International Cabaret Festival, Darwin Festival and Belco Arts Canberra, receiving critical and audience acclaim in all cities. He also recently hosted the National NAIDOC Awards Ceremony in Melbourne and the National Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin which were both live to air presentations.

Katherine Wolfgramme (she/her)

Katherine Wolfgramme transitioned over thirty years ago. She is a proud transgender woman of colour with a breadth of knowledge that is unique among trans inclusion educators. 

Through storytelling, Katherine openly shares her experiences as a child born with gender dysphoria, a trans youth, a transgender woman in full bloom and now a transgender elder, community mother and Sydney LGBTQIA+ community leader. 

Katherine has created positive impacts for the transgender community both in Australia and abroad culminating in a Fellowship at The Royal Society for Arts (RSA), a global network of Positive Impact Makers. 

Katherine has served on several boards including Wear It Purple, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and Sydney Transgender Day of Remembrance and has also served as The Ambassador of the Gender Centre. Katherine is currently on the board of Qtopia, Sydney’s Pride Museum due to open in 2023.

Katherine’s unique style of education and trans advocacy has won her much acclaim in the corporate diversity and inclusion speaking circuit in Australia and internationally, culminating in her receiving the Inspirational Role Model of the Year award at the prestigious Australian LGBT Awards in 2019 and being twice nominated for Community Hero at The Honour Awards 2020 and 2022. 

Katherine is a public speaker, a brand ambassador, a transgender awareness educator, journalist, esteemed and nationally respected transgender advocate, and a proud member of the Sydney gay community.

William Yang (he/him)

Photographer William Yang came to Sydney from Brisbane in 1969. He came out as a gay man and has recorded much of his life in the Sydney gay community since the early seventies.

Yang had his first solo exhibition “Sydneyphiles” at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney in 1978. Part of the exhibition showed scenes from gay life at the time: people, parties, shows, events, and nights at the sauna Kens Karate Klub. It was the first time that Australian images of this nature had been shown at a public institution and the exhibition caused a sensation. In 1989 he integrated his skills as a writer and a visual artist. He performed monologues with slide projection in the theatre. They told personal stories and explored issues of identity against a background of social history. He has created twelve full-length works and many of them have toured the world. Recently, he has converted three of his theatre performances into film.

He has exhibited regularly at Mardi Gras. He is well known for his documentation of the AIDS epidemic in the early nineties. His performance piece “Sadness” was made into a film by Tony Ayres in 1999.

In 1997 he won the award for Outstanding Visual Arts Event at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for his exhibition “Friends of Dorothy.” “Friends of Dorothy” is the name he gives to his generic collection of photos of the gay community in Sydney: it has been a book, an exhibition, a performance piece which has toured overseas, and a DVD.

In 2021 he had a retrospective exhibition of images of the LGBTIQ community, “Seeing and Being Seen”, at QAGOMA in Brisbane, which was received very favourably by both the critics and general public.

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Acknowledgement of country

Sydney WorldPride will take place on the lands of the Gadigal, Cammeraygal, Bidjigal, Darug, Dharawal people who are the Traditional Custodians of the Sydney Basin.

We pay our Respects to their Elders past and present. Always was Always will be Aboriginal Land.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people come from many different clans and communities across Australia & in 2023 will come together as one, to celebrate with our global LGBTQIA+ community.