DEFGLIS in partnership with a team of researchers are seeking to put together an anthology of the service of LGBTIQ+ people in the Australian Defence Force post World War II.
In the mean time, is there an important historical event that is worthy of making it onto the timeline below? Please contribute by letting us know and together we can piece back together the important pioneers who helped to create greater inclusion in the Australian Defence Force.
Please help by providing us with references, evidence and pictures where possible. We will do our best to acknowledge the efforts of so many soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen and their families who contributed to the current level of open service and respect for sexual orientation and gender identity diversity within Defence. We apologise in advance if we have missed your substantial contribution in our history below.
The Gay Ex-Services Association operated from 1982-84. Their President was Max Campbell, who served in the Royal Australian Air Force from 1961-81, including a tour in Vietnam 1966-67.
The Association was prevented by the R.S.L. from laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in 1984. You can read more about the incident and the reflections of Max Campbell in the first report back from the research team.
On 23 November 1992, the Keating Government announced a cabinet decision to revoke the policy on homosexual behaviour. This came as welcome news to young sailor Anita Van Der Meer who had taken a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in response to the Royal Australian Navy seeking to discharge her for being same-sex attracted. While the Commission did not have the power to act, her complaint was one that led to the removal of the policy.
Personnel who were involuntarily discharged prior to 1992 on the basis of their same-sex attraction can seek to have their discharge paperwork amended to reflect a voluntary discharge.
1996 saw the formation of G-Force, the first known support group for actively serving members. The group marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras against the express wishes of Defence Headquarters. President of G-Force David Mitchell – then a Sergeant in the RAAF – received threats from a senior officer in Defence who threatened his career if the march proceeded.
Just prior to the march, Defence members were approved to march in the G-Force float but were not permitted to march in uniform.
Mitchell and G-Force went on to advocate for recognition of same-sex partners by Defence Health Funds.
In 1999, Andy Stuht – a member of the Navy – organised the second participation of Defence personnel in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. The group was called “Defence In Unity.” The group was not provided with permission to march in uniform, and instead elected to march wearing various retired items of Defence uniform.
The Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service – DEFGLIS was formed in 2002 by then Petty Officer Stuart O’Brien.
In 2003, Defence implemented a ban on members undergoing gender transition while in the Australian Defence Force. At this stage in history, DEFGLIS did not have knowledge, or experience with gender transition or gender identity.
Family benefits were extended for the first time to same-sex couples in Defence. (“Fed: ADF Win for Gays Gets Quiet Welcome.” AAP General News Wire, Oct 23, 2005)
Health Directive 210 Policy on the prevention, detection and management of blood borne virus infections is released.
DEFGLIS President Stuart O’Brien receives a letter from Defence senior leadership outlining agreement and conditions for Defence personnel to participate in Mardi Gras.
A signal is released from Defence providing permission for Defence personnel to participate in Mardi Gras.
Defence personnel participated in the Sydney Mardi Gras with formal approval from Defence in DEFGLIS civilian attire.
Following release of the Acts Interpretation Act in 2009, further inequality was removed between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. However policy discrimination remained in effect and continues to remain in effect as of 2015 maintaining inequality between how same-sex and married couples are recognised by Defence.
In 2010, Defence removed the ban on transgender personnel by withdrawing its policy. At this point, a number of personnel in Defence had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
In 2011, DEFGLIS was renamed to Defence LGBTI Information Service to better reflect the membership base and clarify inclusion for all LGBTIQ+ personnel and their families. An interim board was established and a new website was launched to improve sustainability and improved governance for the association.
General David Hurley – Chief of Defence Force granted approval for Defence personnel to participate at the Sydney Mardi Gras in uniform.
Defence personnel marched for the first time at the Sydney Mardi Gras in uniform. The contingent was led by Air Commodore Tracy Smart, the most senior openly serving LGBTI person in Defence, and DEFGLIS founder Warrant Officer Stuart O’Brien.
The Australian Army released an Army Pride Pin – the first time a Defence symbol had been combined with an LGBTI diversity theme.
The sacrifice of LGBTIQ+ service personnel was commemorated by DEFGLIS members for the first time across Australia.
All three service Warrant Officers marched in the Defence contingent at the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade.
Defence launched the Defence Pride network at the inaugural Military Pride Ball hosted by DEFGLIS. The Defence Pride Network is the Defence internal employee support network for LGBTIQ+ personnel.
Defence ranked equal 17th in the Australian Workplace Equality Index awards and the top public sector inclusive employer alongside the Australian Federal Police.
Health Directive 234 outlining medical care considerations for personnel with gender dysphoria was released.
The method by which families were recognised by Defence was streamlined into a single process for married and non-married couples. The new process removed differences in the burden of proof required to prove the existence of a relationship, and aligned requirements with those used by other government agencies.
Same sex marriage, Australia voted yes which changed rights for LGBTIQ+ people, recognising spouses.
History of DEFGLIS
DEFGLIS was founded in 2002 as the Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service to provide policy and community information to gay, lesbian and bisexual members of Defence.
Starting out as a website and an e-mail newsletter, DEFGLIS evolved into a national community through the efforts of founder Stuart O’Brien and a team of volunteers based in each state. Through the efforts of volunteers, DEFGLIS assisted members to connect with each other and to access community services that could provide for their health and wellbeing needs.
In response to DEFGLIS advocacy, in 2005 Defence extended benefits to same-sex couples and increased consideration for the needs of same-sex attracted personnel in the workplace.
The association extended its breadth of support for transgender and intersex personnel in 2011, prompting rebranding to the Defence LGBTI Information Service.
DEFGLIS coordinated approval for Defence personnel to participate in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Australia’s iconic national LGBTIQ+ Pride event and cultural festival. Members paraded in DEFGLIS attire from 2008 and in uniform from 2013.
In 2014, DEFGLIS became an incorporated association and a registered charity. It remains a recognised support service by the Australian Defence Organisation.
DEFGLIS now regularly delivers Defence LGBTI news across a range of mediums and hosts a range of activities to satisfy diverse interests across the membership base. Our members serve as LGBTIQ+ speakers to meet a range of Defence community needs.
The association exists to strengthen the bonds of community and inclusive practice through engaged and resilient members who are capable of supporting each other.