Interview | Lynne O’Brien

FUSE Local Hero : Lynne O’Brien

Lynne’s rainbow footsteps and echoes can be found in queer spaces from Canberra to Sydney, the coast and beyond.
Alexander Thatcher  |  Art & Culture
Photo by Nathan J Lester : Lynne O’Brien

Lynne O’Brien has undoubtedly earned this issue’s cover title of Local Hero! Her involvement and volunteer work with LGBTIQ+ community projects, businesses and PRIDE organisations over the past 38+ years is awe-inspiring.

She is a proud lesbian, feminist, provocateur, activist, wife, mother of three, ovarian cancer survivor and grandmother of five!

Having worked to create many fabulous queer events and pride celebrations over the years, Lynne is currently the President of Canberra SpringOUT.

With the 2023 festival happening in November, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to chat with her about her many years of queer antics in the LGBTIQ+ community and what we can expect at this year’s ‘Pride in the Capital’ festivities.

Thanks for taking some time to chat with us, can you tell us a bit about the history of SpringOUT and your involvement?

SpringOUT started in 1999, and I had heard about it from Canberra friends. At the time, I was working in Sydney with Capital Q News and the Sydney Pride Centre. Creating pride festivals was a labour of love back then.

I think we should all be grateful to those who have gone before us. - Lynne O’Brien

In 2015, SpringOUT was incorporated and was able to apply for government funding, so I came back to Canberra and joined the committee, becoming President in 2019. We had an amazing 20th Anniversary, and then COVID hit.

How do you feel the community has changed over the years?

I think there are many different issues today: the impacts of climate change, social media, the pandemic fallout, and the trans and gender-diverse backlash in some parts of our world.

We have come a long way, but we still have a way to go. Marriage equality had a huge impact on lives, as did the rescinding of convictions for gay men and lesbians who were persecuted, jailed and lost their children in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

I think Canberra is doing a great job with equality and inclusivity compared to some other jurisdictions. We have an out and proud Chief Minister, politicians, and government support through the Office of LGBTIQ+ Affairs. I feel we need to keep moving forward and fostering change in whatever way we can. I like to do this through art and events, music and theatre, sharing ideas and expression.

What has been your favourite pride or community event?

Oh my, there have been so many. Impossible to choose.  I really enjoyed working to bring the Gay Gaymes to Sydney, and I loved producing Mardi Gras Fair Day in Sydney.  For me, it’s the small moments when I see tears in the eyes of a community elder at a dance party, feeling totally accepted and in awe of how far we have come or meeting a young trans person smiling and covered in rainbows feeling comfortable to be in their own authentic skin. 

You’ve been associated with many community projects; what inspired you to become involved with SpringOUT?

I’m a sucker for a cause, and I love producing, making things happen. I have many years of experience and skills in producing events of all types, shapes and sizes so it was a no-brainer for me to put my hat in the ring.

Photo: Lynne OBrien with Johnathan Davis MLA.

Tell is about the theme of this year’s festival?

We have Shawnah Cady (Mumma MadB @madbdiva) to thank for this year’s theme, ‘Pride in the Capital’. We want to make sure that everyone knows what Canberra SpringOUT is all about, from the sold-out Pink Tennis Bushdance to the queer chocolate decorating sessions.

This year’s festival will have many ways to show your pride in our marvellous capital city. - Lynne O’Brien

Can you share any memorable moments from past pride festivals that have left a lasting impression?

Ahh, I remember standing on the dance floor with my Mardi Gras Board mates in 2003, shedding tears of relief and joy, knowing that we had rallied the community and saved the organisation. Feeling a sense of excitement and pride at SpringOUT 2019 while watching the rainbow heart being painted on the Glebe Park lawns and attending many rainbow flag-raising ceremonies in places like Sydney, Denver and Canberra. So many lovely moments.

What event are you most excited about this year?

It’s hard to choose. I want to go to everything! The Madonna 40 exhibition at CMAG sounds amazing, and the Queer Elder Speak series will be loads of fun. I’m also really looking forward to the FUSE Big Gay Breakfast and the  Pride Community Picnic as I love browsing markets and catching up with my mates.

Readers may be wondering why there is no Fair Day or FreshOut this year. Can you tell us about that?

There is no Fair Day in November this year. As you may recall, we had ‘FreshOut’ in March this year (after cancellations due to COVID-19 and flooding) to celebrate with WorldPride. We don’t have the capacity or finances to produce two Fair Days in the one year, so we will be holding an extra special Fair Day in 2024.

What other plans does SpringOUT have for 2024?

It’s going to be a big year with SpringOUT celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2024. Fair Day returns, and we are already planning lots of amazing events and surprises.

And finally, how can people get involved with SpringOUT, whether as volunteers, sponsors or participants?

Head to, sign up as a member, volunteer or join our mailing list, attend the festival and catch up with our committee and wonderful event stakeholders. If you have an idea for an event or if you already run a queer event, get in touch, and we can work on making something special happen.

Photos by: Photo by Nathan J Lester

Pride in the Capital

SpringOut 2023 ‘Pride in the Capital’ runs from 3 November until 3 December. View or download the FESTIVAL GUIDE from the link below or visit


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