The Australian Defence Force’s unofficial LGBTI support group, Defence LGBTI Information Service (DEFGLIS), is set to bolster its internal advocacy efforts following a significant shake-up of its structure.
A provisional board, made up of DEFGLIS members, has been established with senior air force officer Vince Chong now at the helm.
The group’s restructure to a member-elected board was mooted last year by DEFGLIS founder and former chair Stuart O’Brien. The changes mark the group’s biggest reform since it was established a decade ago.
“The legacy that Stuart O’Brien started and has worked so hard to maintain will be preserved well into the future with the implementation of a board,” Chong said.
“DEFGLIS will now refocus its efforts to achieve organisational sustainability to ensure the continuation of support for Defence LGBTI personnel and their families.”
Chong said the group will develop a proposal for the ADF to increase its LGBTI diversity training and assistance for trans and intersex personnel.
He welcomed comments from Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison (pictured) last month that he would like to see greater recruitment of gays and lesbians, women and ethnic minorities to the ADF.
“DEFGLIS welcomes … any initiatives implemented by Defence that proactively seeks to improve culture to achieve a fair and inclusive environment,” Chong said.
Last year Australia’s military was heavily criticised for a scandal in which several serving ADF personnel were outed and vilified by ADF members who joined a gay-hate Facebook page.
Chong said a recent survey of DEFGLIS members, however, shows most still feel the ADF has an inclusive culture, while “a small percentage” don’t feel comfortable being out.
“The Facebook incident reported last year was a shock to the many LGBTI [personnel] who are well-adjusted, proud and out members of Defence,” Chong said.
“DEFGLIS has been forced to re-evaluate its priorities as a result. While anti-discriminatory policies provide protection, they still require a complainant to come forward after an incident has occurred.
“Our focus now is working up proposals that we hope Defence will consider that focus more on improving culture at a macro level, starting with improvements to education and awareness training, to initiatives that challenge individuals to evaluate whether their behaviours could be making life harder on their mates and, as a result, the overall performance of the unit.”