Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex defence personnel will be dusting off their uniforms to wear at this year’s Mardi Gras Parade for the first time.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) members have marched in the parade since 2008 but were not allowed to wear their ceremonial garb and soldiers, sailors and airmen and women will march as a “formed body” in a first.
The announcement coincides with the 20th anniversary since LGBTI people were allowed to openly serve in the ADF, as well as the 35th anniversary of the Mardi Gras Parade.
DEFGLIS, the Australian Defence LGBTI Information Service has “strongly welcomed” the announcement and said it had been seeking permission since 2006.
“Mardi Gras is an important cultural event that celebrates sexual orientation and gender diversity,” DEFGLIS chair Vince Chong said.
“LGBTI Defence personnel have particiapted in the parade with DEFGLIS since 2008.
“Many LGBTI personnel and non-LGBTI personnel have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to showcase the diversity within the Defence Force at Mardi Gras. The experience of our members indicates that LGBTI personnel do have very successful careers and experiences in Defence.”
ADF personnel can volunteer to wear their ceremonial uniform and will march along ADF protocols while a separate group will march with DEFGLIS members and supporters.
The Department of Defence made the announcement in a statement on December 21.
“The decision coincides with the 20th anniversary of the removal of the ban on homosexuals serving in the military and demonstrates the ADF’s desire to reflect the community it serves,” it read.
“Diversity is a strength and asset for today’s employers, and Defence is no exception.
“Defence is working on a number of initiatives to further enhance and asupport diversity in the ADF workforce, including an Ambassador Network and Diversity Strategy.”
The statement also said the ADF was looking at adopting diversity handbooks that had been recently introduced by the Air Force to its gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel.
In November last year, chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, said he was proud of the progress made since the ban was lifted in 1992.
“We have progressed beyond outdated thinking on homosexuality to give all ADF members the same access to the range of service benefits regardless of their sexual orientation or gender,” he said.
Online registrations to wear defence uniforms at the Mardi Gras parade open today on the DEFGLIS website.