When the Royal Australian Navy Minehunter HMAS Huon held a cake sale alongside Sydney’s HMAS Waterhen last week, the Commanding Officer took the opportunity to take the attendees out of their comfort zones when thinking about diversity in Navy and beyond.
Lieutenant Commander Alan Parton accepted the challenge laid down by the Chief of Navy to support the 100 Days for Change initiative by facilitating a discussion on equity and diversity, and bringing attention to women’s sport.
“As a white, heterosexual male I am part of the majority within Defence, and in most organisations,” he said.
“I wanted to try and see and experience, even it was for a brief moment, what it would be like to be outside that group to experience a tiny bit of what it would be like to be different and to have doubt, mistrust, suspicion and the questioning of my abilities.
“Although for me this would last for seconds, for others it lasts a lifetime.”
With the support of the Warrant Officer of the Navy, Lieutenant Commander Parton gained approval for members of his crew and other personnel based at Waterhen to paint their right pinkie fingers with pink nail polish for the day.
“This created several instances for me to have people look at me and make a snap judgement based solely upon my appearance.”
In addition to the Huon’s crew, the challenge was accepted by the ship’s companies of HMA Ships Diamantina, Gascoyne and Yarra, with many members making gold coin donations to sport the pink pinkie.
Also supporting the initiative was the Head Coach of Navy’s Women’s AFL Team, Lieutenant Commander Elisabeth Quinn, who travelled from Canberra to speak to the assembled sailors and officers about the role of women’s sport.
“Although many see women’s sport as being relatively new, the first recorded Australian Rules football match played by women was played in 1917,” Lieutenant Commander Quinn said.
“When you take up the challenge to go and support a women’s sport you will experience a level of passion and intensity up there with any other sporting match—you won’t find a more passionate, hardworking and dedicated group of people than those involved in women’s sport.
“Today there are pathways for junior sailors and officers—male and female—to be involved in a variety of sports at advanced levels.
The cake sale and gold coin donations raised over $200, with the proceeds going to the ‘Keeping Watch’ charity.
Huon’s Commanding Officer was pleased with the event, and the attention raised to the challenges faced by those that have different perspectives in life.
“Being different should not make a difference,” Lieutenant Commander Parton said.