Penguin partners lead Mardi Gras message

Who better to tip a bouquet of ice on a discriminatory policy against diversity than a pair of lovedup penguins?

This year’s Sydney Mardi Gras theme is “Stand Up!”, and that is the message two hyper-sized male Gentoo penguins will be telling the community at this year’s parade on the NSW Teachers Federation’s float.

We’re Standing Up – standing up for our rights, for our students, and for LGBTIQ communities,” said Mel Smith, Federation Deputy Secretary (Communications and Administration) and officer responsible for LGBTIQ matters.

In real life, adoptive penguin fathers Sphen and Magic have become same-sex celebrities after raising two chicks in their expansive enclosure at SEA LIFE Aquarium at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

The penguin family had featured in Federation’s inclusiveness training, which became the subject of an attack by One Nation for encouraging teachers to incorporate diverse families in their curriculum.

One Nation is attacking the ability of teachers to affirm LGBTIQ students’ identities, to create safe learning environments for LGBTIQ students and rainbow families and to teach in an LGBTIQ inclusive manner,” Ms Smith said.

The float sends a message that we will not be bullied into silence and that we celebrate our LGBTIQ members, students and community – including our gay penguin friends.

Sphen and Magic went viral in 2018 when the male couple successfully adopted and incubated an egg at SEA LIFE Aquarium. The hatched chick was named Lara by its carers but the public nicknamed her SPHENGIC after her amazing parents.

The duo reunited in 2020 to set up a nest and adopt a second egg, which hatched in November 2020. The second child’s arrival went viral in the same month, along with the news of six other Gentoo penguin chicks – a species considered “Near threatened (population decreasing)” hatching at the aquarium during the same breeding season.

Our float this year pays homage to Sphen, Magic and their two chicks, and sends a message of love and support to all rainbow families, especially those with young children in school,” Ms Smith said.

Discrimination and exclusion will further divide our society, but we can work together to achieve a bright future for ourselves, and for the children we teach. To do that we must stand up for what we believe, and we cannot let our rights be eroded.

We stand up in support of our rainbow families, we stand up to create safer school settings for our LGBTIQ students, and we stand up to stop discrimination in the schoolyard and the workplace.