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Military Pride Ball recognises the 25-year journey towards inclusion

2017 09 23 MPB2017

The Military Pride Ball recognised 25 years of open service for lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel in the Australian Defence Force.

300 Defence people, friends and family gathered in Sydney to celebrate the great strides Defence has made to generate inclusive culture and encourage inclusive leadership.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow highlighted that changes made by Defence, created closer alignment with the principle of the 'fair-go' that is deeply enshrined in Australian culture.

False claims have circulated about this event - here are the facts.

“Some of the qualities that unite members of the ADF 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," said Santow.

“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."

Santow said that a culture of silence was corrosive, but embracing diversity allowed Defence to more effectively 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.

Air-Vice Marshal Tracy Smart, Commander Joint Health was the senior Defence representative at the gathering and acknowledged the contributions of LGBTI service personnel, many of whom were 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," said Smart.

"The Defence Force today, is one that values the unique contribution you make and is one that does not exclude people based on their background, attributes or appearance. In fact, it embraces what you bring to the team."

Champions who have worked hard to improve respect and inclusion in Defence were recognised during the evening.

Associate Professors Noah Riseman and Shirleene Robinson received awards for their research efforts that have uncovered countless stories and experiences of LGBTI personnel who have served since World War II - 1945.

Director of ACON's Pride Inclusion Programs Dawn Hough highlighted that the Defence was one of the first employers to embrace adopting and improving LGBTI inclusion practice in 2010.

"Before LGBTI inclusion became accepted as a legitimate area of practice, only eight employers raised their hands to say 'this is important, we will support this'," said Hough.

"One of those employers [was] Department of Defence ... and [tonight] has brought me back to the wonderful history we have shared with Defence over the last seven years."

The principal sponsor for the Military Pride Ball was PricewaterhouseCoopers, who share an equal commitment to creating a safe and inclusive workplace, and are recognised as a Platinum employer in the Pride in Diversity Australian Workplace Equality Index.

The gathering brought together LGBTI families within the Defence community to promote networking and peer-support, to meet our obligations as partners with Defence's internal LGBTI employee network — DefencePride.

The Australian Army Band - Sydney provided spectacular musical support, enhancing the climate of inclusion and belonging.

LGBTI personnel were also encouraged to volunteer to become mentors for the LGBTI youth suicide charity StartOut, who will launch new services in Melbourne and Sydney next month.

Ex-services partner With You With Me was also present to assist LGBTI veterans to find employment following years of dedicated service.

False claims have circulated about this event - here are the facts.

Photographs from the event are available online