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Half a million people will head to Sydney's Oxford Street tonight for Mardi Gras

Jessica Mauboy performs on stage during Mardi Gras Party at the Entertainment Quarter on March 7, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.

Around half a million people are expected to attend the 38th annual Sydney Mardi Gras parade tonight, including Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

This year the parade will feature 175 floats moving from Hyde Park down Oxford Street to Surry Hills and Moore Park.

Turnbull will be the first sitting PM to attend the event. Opposition leader Bill Shorten is also expected to feature atop the Rainbow Labor float, with Greens leader Richard Di Natale taking part on the Transcend Bigotry, Transform our Communities float.

Other major floats include the Australian Olympians and Paralympians float, which will see more than 80 of Australia’s top athletes coming together ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio in August, Muslims Against Homophobia, Gayby Baby and even a float dedicated to Orange is the New Black star Ruby Rose.

Mardi Gras global ambassador Courtney Act and 2014 Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst will be performing at the Mardi Gras Party on Saturday night.

Photo: mardigras.org.au.

The parade will begin at 7.45pm and finish up at 11pm Saturday with road closures taking place from 3pm Saturday to 4am Sunday.

The Mardi Gras parade began as a protest and gay pride march in 1978, but it soon turned ugly, with 53 people arrested and bashed by police, while their names, addresses and jobs were subsequently published in the media.

The lead up to the 2016 march has seen a number of organisations apologise for their actions against the original marchers, known as the 78ers.

The Sydney Morning Herald apologised for publishing the details of those arrested, the NSW government apologised in parliament last week and yesterday, the NSW police apologised for their brutality of their actions 38 years ago, with Surry Hills Local Area Command superintendent Tony Crandall saying “”Sorry for the way that the Mardi Gras was policed on the first occasion in 1978.”

“We apologise, and we acknowledge the pain and hurt that police actions caused at that event in 1978,” he said.

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said it was time for Australia to catch up with the community and many nations by legalising same-sex marriage.

“The march has long championed equality — but while the community’s on board, we’re still falling behind countries across the globe that have legalised same sex marriage,” she said.

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