Fears that Australian police would target this year’s Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras parade and after-party proved unfounded. Only eleven people were arrested.

Some 8,000 people took part in the three-hour parade through the centre of the city, led this year by British actor Rupert Everett.

Police were criticised last week for heavy-handed tactics at an earlier Mardi Gras dance party, where they strip-searched revellers in an attempt to find drugs.

The parade, watched by 350,000 spectators, featured satirical floats, including one mocking the environmental policies of Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Kevin Rudd.

The parade was led by gangs of lesbians, the famous dykes on bikes, many of whom rode bare breasted.

There was also a mass Kylie Minogue tribute, with over 250 men dressed as the diminutive singer, and a gang of Vicky Pollards were also in attendance.

“It’s been unbelievable, organised chaos. Beyond our wildest expectations.

“You couldn’t ask for better weather. The crowds, the floats, its just been great,” said Marcus Bourget, chair of Mardi Gras.

“This iconic event which provides visibility and pride of gay and lesbian people throughout the world, is a beacon of love, acceptance and tolerance,” he said.

This was the 29th year a gay pride parade has been held in Sydney.

The first event, in 1978 was banned, and many of the participants were arrested.

Their names were published in the local paper, and many lost their jobs.

Homosexuality was not decriminalised in New South Wales until 1982.

Today it is the largest cultural event in Australia, known throughout the world as the gayest street party of them all.

This year gay men from the Faroe Islands, in the North Atlantic, attended for the first time.