18 Feb 2018

Ardern first PM to walk in Akl Pride Parade

9:50 am on 18 February 2018

Jacinda Ardern has become the first prime minister to walk in the Auckland Pride Parade.

Over 70 floats, including ones made by the rainbow community, political parties, universities and businesses, supported the LGBTTQI community in Auckland last night.

This year's parade was the largest yet, with between 25,000 and 30,000 people turning out to watch the revelry.

Addressing the crowd, Ms Ardern, who has attended previous parades, said the government "walks beside" the Rainbow community.

The event was a great opportunity to celebrate diversity and connect with young people.

Significant mental health issues still existed within the young rainbow community, she said.

"Bullying, a sense that you can't be who you are in certain environments - we do still need to be worried about that."

"Those people are growing up all over New Zealand," Ms Ardern said. They needed to feel "safe" and "supported".

She said the parade sent a strong message to those groups.

Several previous prime ministers have attended the parade, however parade organisers said it was the first time a prime minister had walked in the parade.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Piper Shields, Phoebe Newcombe & Audrey Reid (from left to right).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Piper Shields, Phoebe Newcombe & Audrey Reid (from left to right). Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Organisers have urged Ms Ardern to include gender identity as an unlawful basis for discrimination in the Human Rights Act.

The parade's producer Shaughan Woodcock said rainbow rights had come a long way in the past few decades, but the parade still remained relevant.

Issues still remained in New Zealand - especially for the trans-community's access to gender-reassignment, Mr Woodcock said.

Chief executive of RainbowYOUTH, Frances Arns, said the parade was mostly now a celebration, but had a "dual purpose" of being a platform to spread important messages.

"There are still so many issues that exist on a daily basis for our community," Ms Arns said.

Discrimination and lack of understanding continued to create barriers for the community, she said.

The pride parade - now in its sixth year - marks the final celebration for the two-week long Auckland Pride Festival, which has showcased more than 85 musical, theatre and discussion events.

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