The Australian Defence Force has given permission for the first Defence sexual diversity conference.
The two-day forum, to be held in September, will discuss the needs of gay and lesbian people for the development of Defence personnel policy on health, family recognition and equal opportunity.
It will be modelled on existing Defence conferences on women and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
The Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service has begun seeking experts from community organisations to talk to ADF and departmental officials.
This conference represents the start of an initiative that aims to increase the support available to Defence military and public service personnel, DEFGLIS chair Stuart O’Brien told Sydney Star Observer.
ADF officials and DEFGLIS are working on establishing a nationwide network of sexual diversity advisors to provide information to members and commanders.
O’Brien said the wellbeing of all Defence members, including those from the gay and lesbian community, is in the national interest.
With many of our young members living on Defence bases, it’s vital that important community messages and health information reaches members with diverse sexual preferences that doesn’t come through normal channels, he said.
The fact that some of our members are contracting sexually transmitted infections means we need to do a better job of getting community messages out there and increasing sexual health awareness.
ADF’s first out gay or lesbian -˜one-star’, Air Commodore Tracey Smart, is expected to join a discussion panel as head of the Air Force health.
O’Brien thanked the officials who worked to remove the ban on gay and lesbian Defence personnel, extend family benefits to them, and authorised the first official ADF float in Sydney’s 2008 Mardi Gras parade.
But more consultation was needed to identify the needs of those personnel, he said, which could only come from those directly connected to the gay and lesbian community.