“We know that you’re a homosexual, we’ve been following you.”

Trigger Warning: This story has details of suicidal ideation and might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

This is what Yvonne Sillett,  a former Australian soldier and cipher operator, was told during a 1988 interrogation into her sexuality in relation to her security clearance. 

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According to her statement on Monday to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, Sillett was “humiliated” and “degraded” during the three-hour interrogation. 

Royal Commission Hearing Veterans

The royal commission is gathering evidence from ADF members who have had suicidal ideation or from surviving family members of those who have died.  

Describing her interrogation, Sillett said that “after several hours of this questioning they said they would be taking the matter further and that, based on my sexuality, I could no longer be in Signal Corps as I’d be open to blackmail, and that they were downgrading my security clearance which was needed to do that job. They told me I’d never instruct women again.”

According to The Guardian, during her interrogation, she was asked to give up the names of other homosexual military personnel but she refused to do so.

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I loved what I did, and had been a bit of a trailblazer for women in the army. It was all I had known, and the rug was yanked from under my feet. The trauma I experienced was up there with losing my mother, and there were suicidal thoughts.”

No Apology

With the help of a partner at the time, Sillett was able to “pull through. ”

According to the Canberra Times, the royal commission has issued over 150 notices to “Defence Department, DVA, and other bodies”  which has resulted in the collection of more than 320,000 pages of material to review. 

The commission has also received more than 1100 submissions related to the matter. 

According to news.com.au she has yet to receive an apology. Sillett’s experiences have been included in a book by Noah Riseman, Shirleene Robinson, and Graham Willet called Serving in Silence

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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