In a historic first, Melbourne’s iconic landmark, the Shrine of Remembrance will be bathed in rainbow colours on Sunday August 1, 2022, to honour LGBTQI veterans. Not surprisingly, the decision has run into the usual homophobic and transphobic opposition.

Shrine CEO, Dean Lee told Star Observer that plans to light up the Shrine in rainbow colours to mark the opening of a new exhibition, ‘Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service’, would go ahead. 

Former Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, who deleted her past anti-trans Twitter posts during the federal election campaign, was one of those who criticised the Shrine’s decision. 

“Enough.  The Victorian Shrine of Remembrance being used to promote divisive political ideologies. The community deserves to know which fringe activists are behind this sign of disrespect,” Deves railed on Twitter

3AW host Neil Mitchell and former Liberal candidate Katherine Deves railed against plans for the Shrine of Remembrance to be lit in rainbow colours to honour LGBTQI veterans.

Gay Billboard, Claims Neil Mitchell

Neil Mitchell, 3AW host, claimed the rainbow flag was “divisive” and that the Shrine would be “lit up like a gay billboard”, reported the Herald Sun

“No disrespect to the gay community but the rainbow flag can be divisive,” claimed Mitchell, adding, “It’s not the role of the Shrine to be leading that debate, the Shrine should be above politics and political debate.”

According to Shrine CEO Lee, this was not the first time that the war memorial was lit in colours to mark important events.  “The Shrine has also been illuminated this year along with other major Melbourne buildings to honour police officers killed in the line of duty, and the assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe”. 

“We use our building and our lighting to communicate stories which we feel are relevant to our purpose and relevant to the citizens of Melbourne and Victoria,” Lee told Star Observer

Defending With Pride: Stories Of LGBTQ+ Service

Defence Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Information Service (DEFGLIS) members and supporters lay a wreath at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on ANZAC Day 2022: From left: GPCAPT Mick Jansen, FLTLT Danie Bunting, FLGOFF(AAFC) Dan Morris, FLTLT Brad Milsteed, FLTLT Lachlan Saunders, Stuart Martin, Bron Richardson, LTCOL Kristy Hudson, Sameer Mane. Image: Supplied

On Sunday, a new exhibition ‘Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service’ will be inaugurated. The same day also marks the Last Post Commemorative Service, with the “week’s service being specifically linked to recognition of LGBTIQ+ members of the ADF”. 

The exhibition that runs until July 2023, is the first of its kind by an Australian war memorial, and chronicles the history of LGBTQI personnel who have served or are currently serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Kate Spinks, curator of exhibition, said that it was a proud moment that “Melbourne’s Shrine is recognising and celebrating the history and service of LGBTQ+ people, something that has traditionally been absent or under-represented within Australia’s war memorials’.”

According to advisory group member Professor Noah Riseman, the exhibition “highlights the service LGBTQ+ Australians gave to their country, even when the country said they were not welcome. It showcases LGBTQ+ service members’ achievements amidst adversity and how, over time, the ADF has changed its tune to embrace the strengths that LGBTQ+ service members bring to the force.”

Rainbow Stories At War Memorial

CEO Lee said that the Shrine remains committed to tell these stories. “The Shrine remains steadfastly committed to honouring the service and sacrifice of all Australians who served from the First World War to today. Those who fought to defend the principles and ideals of a liberal, democratic society. We do this in our programming and in the more than 200 commemorative services conducted each year.”

LGBT Veterans Honoured On Anzac Day At Shrine Of Remembrance In Rainbow Wreath Ceremony

“We believe that the cost of service and sacrifice falls equally to all members of the ADF. This Sunday, we mark the service of LGBTIQ+ members of the ADF. On other days we mark the service of other groups within the ADF: for example, war widows, First Nations people, Jewish ex-service men, Russian ANZACs,” said Lee

As to whether the rainbow colours will be an annual feature at the Shrine, Lee said: “Lighting the Shrine colonnades is a recent initiative and one we will learn from as we receive both supportive and critical commentary.”

Defending With Pride opens at Melbourne’s Shrine Of Remembrance on 1 August 2022 and runs until July 2023.

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