Marching for diversity and inclusion

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Chloe Wootten (author), CPL David Said (photographer)

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Australian Defence Force members and supporters march in the 2015 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.  (photo: CPL David Said)
Australian Defence Force members and supporters march in the 2015 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

On 7 March, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade included the largest Defence contingent ever seen.

Leading the charge this year were the three service warrant officers: Warrant Officer of the Navy Martin Holzberger, Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army David Ashley and Warrant Officer of the Air Force Mark Pentreath.

Warrant Officer Holzberger said he volunteered to march this year in support of Navy personnel of all ranks, celebrating workforce diversity and cultural change.

About 30 Navy officers and sailors were amongst the approximately 165  Australian Defence Force members, together with Defence civilians, families, friends and allies of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

"Once again our officers and sailors did us proud; pride in the service and wearing their uniform, I was honoured to take part," Warrant Officer Holzberger said.

Captain Christine Clarke lead the Navy contingent of the Defence group which was accompanied by the Australian Defence Force Academy Band.

"The cheers were deafening - it was incredible, you couldn't even hear the band!" Warrant Officer Holzberger said.

"There was a good mix of the LGBTI community and their supporters, and family."

Navy Warrant Officer Stuart O'Brien assisted President of the Defence LGBTI Information Service, Squadron Leader Vince Chong, to help keep thecontingent growing each year.

“The growing participation at this parade shows that Defence Force culture has changed for the better,” Squadron Leader Chong said.

“This record turnout of volunteers, on an amazing night like the Mardi Gras parade, shows what can be achieved with strong leadership pushing for cultural change, even in organisations like Defence that are steeped in tradition.

“The presence and support of the most senior enlisted at the Mardi Gras parade will lead to positive workplace culture, allowing us to harness and fully utilise the talent of our personnel to defend Australia.”

Defence has been marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade since 2008 and marched in uniform for the first time in 2013.

Images of the Defence contingent at the Mardi Gras Parade are available at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20150524

For information about Defence’s diversity and inclusion efforts see the Defence website: http://www.defence.gov.au/code/strategy/default.asp