Australian fans of the Eurovision Song Contest gathered at events across Sydney to watch the 2018 grand final fireworks and raise funds for charity.
Sydney’s LGBTI community turned the celebration into a force for good, raising around $5,500 for LGBTI health organisation ACON over two events: a Grand Final viewing party at the Oxford Art Factory and a Eurovision-themed bingo night.
ACON’s Reg Domingo said Eurovision is “close to the heart” of many LGBTI people: “The very essence of Eurovision is all about celebrating diversity, community and coming together, and those are the kind of values that really connect strongly with the queer community.”
Mr Domingo said that the European Broadcasting Union’s decision to terminate their contract with a Chinese broadcaster which censored Ireland’s Eurovision performance because it featured a gay couple “sends a really strong message to the queer community that Eurovision’s got your back".
And of course the show itself is creative… it's fun and glitz and glamour and sequins, it's just a fabulous celebration.
Australia has competed in Eurovision since 2015, and last year 1.1 million Australians watched the prime-time coverage of the Grand Final.
At the 2018 contest in Lisbon, Portugal, Australia’s Jessica Mauboy placed 20th, while Israel’s Netta won the competition with a female empowerment anthem that included chicken dancing.
Israel’s entry also topped the Australian popular vote.
Dr Jess Carniel, an Australian studies academic from the University of Southern Queensland whose book ‘Australian Perspectives on Eurovision: Good Morning Australia!’ will be published later this year, said Australians’ “camp, kitsch sense of humour” makes Eurovision appealing.
The participants in Dr Carniel’s research for the book connected Eurovision with "this feeling of enjoyment and happiness… [Although] bad things are happening in the world". "Eurovision was this one place where they found solace and hope and optimism, because even though we often talk about the politics of Eurovision and there's a lot of discussion around the tensions between the different nations, it's still something where they come together and celebrate music."
Lauren Watts, 30, from Dulwich Hill, has regularly hosted Eurovision costume parties since 2010 and said that for her and her friends, the contest is a good excuse to “gather round in the loungeroom and have a party".
Some of Lauren Watts' costumes from previous Eurovision parties. Photos: Supplied by Lauren Watts
"Most people tend to dress up, even if it's just putting a wig on,” Ms Watts said.
"Seeing the classic hallmarks of Eurovision year after year: the insane number of key changes, the classic pyrotechnics and wind machines, the lyrics that don't really make sense in English… we always get a good laugh out of that.”