Turning 50: the Pollys Club in Marrickville. Photo: supplied

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The Pollys Club, Australia’s oldest continuing gay and lesbian social group, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding this year.

Founded in July 1964, the club has about 600 members and remains involved in a number of initiatives in the gay and lesbian community, including the hosting of fundraisers and social events. The club estimates it has raised more than $150,000 since its inception.

This year Pollys will celebrate by entering a float in the much-younger Mardi Gras parade (which turns 36 this year), and hosting a celebratory dinner.

“When it first started it was quite a unique thing to have and even now it’s still quite a unique thing,” said John Bransby, Pollys Club president.

“A lot of people come from all over to come to the dances.”

Mayor of Marrickville Jo Haylen said she was “hugely proud” that her local government area is the home to Australia’s oldest gay and lesbian social group.

“Council appreciates that diversity brings benefits to everyone in our community,” she said.

“I love that members of the gay and lesbian communities say that in areas like Newtown and Enmore they feel really comfortable. The existence of the Pollys Club is part of the reason for that wholehearted acceptance.”

Marrickville Council contributes funding and a truck and generator for the club to enter Mardi Gras each year. It also provides Pollys with meeting and social areas for free. The club has also received a number of grants over the years, including $3000 in 2009.

“By council helping us, we can help the wider community,” Mr Bransby said.

The theme for this year’s Mardi Gras is “kaleidoscope”, which the club has incorporated into the construction of the float.

“We’ve got what appears to be a big birthday cake, [which will be] rainbow-coloured to fit in with the theme,” said Chris Davis, who is organising the float.

“There’ll be around 25 people on the float and 25 people on the ground.”

The club is non-political, and is not actively engaged in LGBT rights activism.

“We keep away from that. We’re there to raise money to give to different charities, that’s our main purpose,” Mr Bransby said.

Initially holding events in Petersham, the club moved its headquarters to Marrickville in 2000, where it has remained since.