OPENLY-gay personnel from the Australian Defence Force will once again march in uniform at this weekend’s Mardi Gras parade, with the DEFGLIS contingent to also include plenty of young cadets.

DEFGLIS, which is the Australian Defence Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Information Service, has been marching in the iconic parade since 2008 but it was only last year that the service personnel marched in uniform for the first time.

A strong presence from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) will make up this year’s float, with about a quarter of marchers in total consisting of young cadets. A full drum corps will also be provided by ADFA.

DEFGLIS chair Vince Chong told the Star Observer he was proud to see such cultural change within the ranks after being initially sparked by a number of highly-publicised sexual harassment cases involving the targeting of young women and gay personnel.

“Around one quarter of the Australian Defence Force contingent this year will be made up of Officer Cadets and Midshipmen from ADFA. Most of them aren’t gay, but march to support their LGBTI colleagues. The entire drum corps providing military musical support are ADFA Officer Cadets and Midshipmen,” he said.

“I think it’s great to see the future generation of ADF leaders understanding the change happening in the wider Defence Force and walking the talk – embracing inclusion right from the outset of their initial officer training. They recognise that inclusion is the key to greater productivity, cohesion and results from human capital.”

The changing attitudes within the ADF has also been noticed internationally with a Dutch study ranking Australia’s Defence Force the fifth-most LGBT friendly in the world.

The LGBT Military Index developed by the Hague-based Centre for Strategic Studies think-tank ranked 103 countries’ forces on categories such as admittance, tolerance, exclusion or persecution of homosexuals.
New Zealand came out on top of the rankings followed by The Netherlands, Britain, Sweden and Australia. The United States was ranked 40 below nations like Argentina, Cuba, Chile and Estonia.

Upon the study’s release, Dutch army colonel Dirk Jan Broks told reporters that the acceptance of gay people in the military was as much a simple employment issues as it was one about human rights.

“It’s also about work quality,” he said. “If a person is gay and not having to hide it they can concentrate on other things without worrying about being discriminated against.”

(Image: DEFGLIS march in last year’s parade. Photo source: Australian War Memorial)

 

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