More than 300 Defence people, friends and family gathered in Sydney recently to celebrate advances in an inclusive Defence culture and to encourage diverse and inclusive leadership.
The Military Pride Ball is an annual gathering that connects the Defence LGBTI community, families and supporters of diversity and inclusion. The event promotes a safe workplace for everyone, professional networking and exchange of best-practice ideas.
Now in its third year, ball recognised 25 years of open service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex personnel in the Australian Defence Force, and is attended by members of the Defence senior leadership.
Keynote speaker for this year's event was Australian Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow, who spoke about the changes made by Defence, created closer alignment with the principle of the 'fair-go' that is deeply enshrined in Australian culture.
“Some of the qualities that unite members of the Australian Defence Force are a love of this country and its values; a commitment to something bigger than yourself; and a capacity to know and understand fear, but not to be diminished by it," Mr Santow said.
“Standing here among friends, it’s easy to forget that long before the ban on open service was formally put in place, many members of the ADF were treated very badly because of their sexual orientation. This treatment often took the form of administrative or medical discharge or various forms of harassment."
Mr Santow said that a culture of silence was corrosive, but embracing diversity allowed Defence to more efficiently to meet the challenges of modern warfare, while also living up to the expectations of the communities they defend – and the principles of equality and fairness that have guided Australians for generations.
Commander Joint Health Command Air-Vice Marshal Tracy Smart acknowledged the contributions of LGBTI service personnel, many of whom are deployed undertaking all aspects of Defence roles - from combat activities, health delivery, institution building and peacekeeping.
"Defence firmly believes that we can only deliver this capability effect if we embrace and encourage diversity in all its forms...we are all on a journey that has not yet reached its conclusion," Air-Vice Marshall Smart said.
Champions who have worked hard to improve respect and inclusion in Defence were recognised during the evening with Excellence in Service awards, including two Royal Australian Navy personnel.
Lieutenant Commander Prudence Hawkins-Griffiths is the supervising officer for the Australian Defence Force Academy LGBTI community and was awarded for her outstanding support and development of LGBTI trainees. An ally who went above and beyond her role and she earned enormous respect for her mentoring, support and dedication.
Midshipman Jake Moir was also recognised for his leadership of the Australian Defence Force Academy LGBTI community. A role normally undertaken by a more senior student, Midshipman Moir lead a team that encouraged peer-to-peer support, leadership and inclusion across the campus.
The Military Pride Ball is convened by DEFGLIS - a volunteer led and operated association with strong connections with the Australian Defence Force. The organisation supports inclusion and respect for greater delivery of Defence outcomes. For more information visit their website: https://www.defglis.com.au/index.php/about