Wear It Purple
Why We Wear It Purple on Mardi Gras and Beyond
This Mardi Gras The Imperial is proud to partner with Australian charity Wear It Purple – known to some as a day in August we wear purple in support of LGBTQ+ youth, but more broadly speaking the project carries across the year doing great things for within the young rainbow community.
This Mardi Gras, $1 from every event at The Impy from the 2-7 of March will be donated to this incredible campaign. In honour of this we sat down with Wear It Purple secretary and volunteer Lara Husselbee to find out more about the organisation and the work they do.
Check out our Mardi Gras Program and Ticketing
Who/What is Wear It Purple and how did it come about?
Great question! So, Wear It Purple is a group of volunteers who strive to foster supportive, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people. This can be at home, at schools, universities or the workplace. The official “Wear It Purple Day” falls on the last Friday of August every year, where people wear purple to show visible support raise awareness to LGBTQ+ youth issues and statistics around bullying and youth suicide, and instead promoting and nurturing positive, safe environments and opportunities.
I believe the movement represents solidarity with a group who may not realise they have support or people who care about them, when really there is an entire community waiting for them with open arms. You never know who you are walking past in your purple, without even exchanging words, the simple act of wearing purple may change someone’s life.
As for our history, it’s pretty cool! Wear It Purple began 11 years ago, our founders Katherine Hudson and Scott Williams decided the statistics and stories of youth suicide they were seeing (both here in Australia and globally) were unacceptable. They were frustrated with the minimal recognition of the bullying, harassment and lack of education leading to LGBTQ+ youth feeling that their only option was to take their own lives.
Thanks to Katherine and Scott’s hard work and influence, their excitement and drive remains today. Most importantly, it’s made a difference… From the 8 year old newly identified gender-diverse kid who will be marching with us this Mardi Gras after their mother reached out to me unsure of where to turn to for resources, to the 600,000 students across Australia who participated and celebrated Wear it Purple in 2019 (we are still getting the numbers back from 2020!)
How did you come to be involved as a volunteer?
This is a question I get asked often and the answer is combination of my values, my own experience and what I do for work. Growing up, I’ve always been passionate about volunteering – whether at school or my workplace, from 18 years as a Surf LifeSaver, to living in Malawi and Cambodia to work with disadvantaged communities and minority groups. I am usually raising my hand to assist pro-bono in some shape or form.
In early 2019 Ross Wetherbee (our current president) and Alex Stefan approached me to join the board. My professional life as a consult requires a lot of collaboration, designing for people and maximising impact/minimising risk, which Ross and Alex felt would be beneficial to the organisation.
As Wear It Purple grows from its grass roots beginnings, we need to work together to scale and place rigour in our processes to best manage the exposure and potential areas to provide support. I bring a corporate mindset and experience to the team to assist with exactly that, which is then balanced with other voices on the board, who represent community – specifically from the point of view of youth and education. It’s essential that we are cross-functional, diverse and continue to evolve to provide the type of support that’s needed.
And finally, my own story as a queer person has provided a nice full circle moment since joining the board. My final year of high school was an incredibly negative experience, highlighting many of the issues I mentioned in question 1. After years of processing and working through that trauma, I realised actually my peers, the parents and teachers around me didn’t have support either. They lacked the language, the tools or the educational resources to have the right conversations. I realised this is a systemic issue and an issue I want to be solving for LGBTQ+ kids to come.
What are one/some of the highlights/rewards from your time with the team?
Nothing beats seeing one of our LGBTQ+ youth in flow. Stepping up to the plate to organise and run an event or activity that they didn’t think they could do. Witnessing the results of mentoring, seeing young people challenging their fears, taking the bull by the horn and learning as they go is hugely rewarding.
Last Mardi Gras, the Wear It Purple theme was Youth Matter – what has the team chosen for 2021’s Rise theme?
As we’re a youth led organisation, we live by our philosophy of letting our youth decide. So each year, we ask our Youth Action Council (YAC) to generate a theme for both Wear It Purple and Mardi Gras. This is typically a group discussion and brainstorm, where they then present their theme idea.
This is what they came back with for the 2021 Mardi Gras Rise theme:
As the youth and future leaders of our tomorrow, “Rise” enforces our mission to empower young people to be their best selves, their truest self and their own role models. We have chosen to go with “We Rise Together” to further encourage LGBTQ+ youth to unite as one force and rise above adversity. We want to rise together and move forward in a world where we are all seen as equals, feel safe, included and empowered in all environments.
Needless to say, we are incredibly proud of what they’ve put together.
When people make a donation to Wear It Purple, what does that money go towards?
When someone makes a donation, or purchases our merchandise (which I really encourage rather than going out and buying any old purple top), those funds contribute directly to projects that support LGBTQ+ youth. For the actual Wear It Purple Day in August, we send free school packs to those who register to help them celebrate and learn, of which we couldn’t do without these donations – considering in 2019 we had 400+ schools across Australia register.
One of our goals for 2021 is to drive awareness around Wear It Purple being a year-long campaign, not just a single day. Through regular events partnered with both community and corporate organisations – we’re able to develop resources that support our rainbow youth. Something we look forward to growing this year and beyond!
Catch Wear It Purple’s parade float live on Saturday 6 March, at our VIP Mardi Lounge & Parade Party.
All images provided by Wear It Purple.