Personnel from the Royal Australian Navy have again marched in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade, promoting diversity and LGBTI acceptance in its workforce.
Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Paul Hollingworth said marching in formation and in uniform was emotional and empowering.
“I think it's important for organisations that may have had a history of homophobia to show that we represent all of the community, we are a great place to work, and that the Australian Defence Force values LGBTI members," Able Seaman Hollingworth said.
“The involvement in Mardi Gras gives us a great sense of belonging to the LBGTI community and the crowds were so enthusiastic to see us involved in the activity.”
Able Seaman Medic Rhys Noblett said marching as a formed body sent an important message to all members of the Australian Defence Force and the community as a whole.
“Whether a member is openly LGBTI, or still finding their way to tell those closest to them, our diverse members show there is absolutely no reason for anyone to feel shame for who they are,” Able Seaman Rhys Noblett said.
“Everyone in Defence, LGBTI or not, serves their country with pride and marching at the Mardi Gras shows that LGBTI members are accepted, and welcome in our workplace.
“While we saw the immense and loving support from the community, as well as Defence, the parade also provided an opportunity to show that the LGBTI community still faces some challenges and we need everyone’s support to move closer to equality in an inclusive and positive way.
Although not identifying as LGBTI himself, Warrant Officer of the Navy Gary Wight also marched, as he said he was proud to be a leader in an organisation that celebrates and supports a workforce with broad expreiences and backgrounds.
“Everyone that serves in the Australian Defence Force, regardless of race, colour, religion, gender or sexuality, should be respected for their contribution to our capability and the defence of our nation, and not be judged or subjected to discrimination,” he said.
“If Navy is to successfully navigate the broad range of complex challenges that lay ahead, and fully maximise emerging opportunities, we must continue to develop diverse and adaptable teams who can draw on the widest set of experiences and skills from all of the Australian community.”
Able Seaman Brad Harris said he is proud to serve Australia as a gay sailor.
“I hope this march showed other gay people they are capable of doing what they love, regardless of who they love,” he said.
Defence members have marched together since 2008 and have been approved to wear their uniforms at the largest celebration of diversity in the country since 2013.
For information about Defence’s diversity and inclusion program see the Defence website: http://www.defence.gov.au/Diversity/