Mardi Gras 2021 celebrations are right around the corner. In the lead up to this year’s festivities, Dale Cleaver, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, shares how the organisation is nurturing a culture of inclusion so everyone can live a fulfilling and authentic life on their own terms.
Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrations are iconic – a series of city-wide events culminating in a larger-than-life parade that unites individuals, groups and organisations under a banner of love and community. But more importantly, it gives us a chance to reflect on and celebrate the importance of equality and inclusion in a really visible, vocal and proud way.
Coming together with our LGBTQI+ community, surrounded by music and glitter and singing and shimmying, is definitely a highlight of the year. Supporting Trailblazers who share those values and amplifying their voices is a really important part of our focus on advocacy. We are always proud to partner with Trailblazers who walk the talk when it comes to equality and inclusion.
If anyone is walking that talk, it’s Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. Their dedication to a culture of equality is nothing short of inspirational. By providing world-class services to people with low vision or blindness, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT removes barriers and empowers people to live life on their terms, with freedom and independence.
“We exist so our clients can have access to, and participate fully in their communities,” says Dale Cleaver, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
“They can use public transport, access health and education environments, achieve meaningful employment and more.”
And can they participate in Mardi Gras? Absolutely, says Dale.
"In 2020, we designed a tactile float for the parade and marched with clients and employees, many of whom had never participated before,” Dale explains.
“We also had the parade audio described for clients, so they could also experience the exciting sights, sounds and colour of the parade. This initiative was driven by our team and was based on feedback from employees and clients alike. We wanted to ensure that clients had the opportunity to experience and participate in large scale iconic events like this.”
Authentic connection and representation is critical to the success of Guide Dogs’ culture of inclusion and equality.
“Yes, Guide Dogs is built on the ideals of accessibility, inclusion and choice for people with low vision or blindness, so extending this to different spaces comes quite naturally,” says Dale.
But nevertheless, “we always look first to what our clients and employees want and expect. Feedback, consultation and representation is key in any of our initiatives. This model ensures we are connecting and representing authentically, rather than trying to predict what support is needed.”
His advice to organisations building their own cultures of inclusion and equality?
“Ensuring consultation and an authentic representation of the voices you are speaking on behalf of should always be front and centre,” he says.
Empowering people to be their authentic selves is crucial to putting core values like equality and inclusion into practice. Mardi Gras is such a vivid and positive reminder of this.
“Events like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and groups like Outforce, are incredibly important to the promotion of the LGBTQ+ community,” Dale says.
“They allow a platform for people to find their voice and educate others around the values of inclusion and equality.”
However, Dale says it’s also important that organisations extend the good vibes and be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community every day.
“Mardi Gras is centred around equality and inclusion – and we believe these values should be incorporated into everyday life,” Dale says.
While, like everything, the parade this year will be modified for COVID safety, we look forward to flying the rainbow flag at every opportunity and are proud to work with Trailblazers like Guide Dogs who live and breathe those values.
Discover more about Salesforce’s core values and how we live them through Equality Groups like Outforce here.