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Mardi Gras Strengthens Defence Capability and Community

2015 03 13 Mardi Gras ADF

Defence’s largest contingent to march in this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras displayed the organisation’s commitment to an inclusive and diverse culture.

For the first time, the group was led by the senior enlisted members of Defence - Warrant Officer of the Navy, Martin Holzberger; Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer David Ashley; and Warrant Officer of the Air Force, Mark Pentreath.

2015 03 13 Parade Leaders

They were joined by their partners Mrs Cathy Holzberger, Mrs Jenny Ashley, Sergeant Rebecca Kubitzky who led the family and employee contingent. Mrs Ashley said that it was the first time that she had been on parade with her husband.

"I've never been able to be so close to my husband while he's doing his job representing Defence. I'm very proud of him and proud we were also able to be a part of this wonderful celebration where there's just so much colour, energy and support for diversity," said Mrs Ashley.

"I am honoured to be able to support Dave and the other family members that are here today. It's an experience I will never forget."

2015 03 03 Partners and DEFGLIS

Partners of the service Warrant Officers were accompanied Lisa Padzensky, the parnter of Parade Commander Air Commodore Tracy Smart, who has marched with Tracy numerous times to support Defence personnel and their families.

Defence participation in the parade has had a positive effect on Defence personnel, many of whom are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Leading Aircraftsman Jake Smith, who came out at work after watching Defence in the parade last year, said he was thrilled to be able to support others by marching for the first time in uniform.

"I had tears in my eyes knowing there were other members of Defence marching beside me who were also gay," said Smith.

"We need to be seen at Mardi Gras to give people the confidence to be themselves at work."

2015 03 14 Jake Smithweb

Captain Christine Clarke who led the Navy contingent said that the cheers were so deafening that the pipes and drums of the Australian Defence Force Academy could not be heard.

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

Clarke was joined by Colonel Brendan Stevens and Group Captain Michael Jansen, making this year the first time that there have been three O-6 ranked senior officers leading each service contingent.

The ADF Officer in charge of the parade and President of DEFGLIS - Defence LGBTI Information Service, Squadron Leader Vince Chong, said he was proud to see the ADF and Defence community contingent growing each year.

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

"It was evident on the faces of those marching that they felt safe, supported and valued. That is a feeling all personnel should take with them back to their workplace.

"Personnel contribute most efficiently and effectively when in an environment where they feel valued and included.

“The presence and support of the most senior enlisted at the Mardi Gras parade demonstrates how serious the ADF is about respecting sexual orientation and gender identity diversity."

More than 110 Australian Defence Force members, 40 Defence employees and family members marched in the parade this year.

The Mardi Gras parade itself was the largest in its history, with 155 floats and over 10,000 participants.

Defence has officially participated in the Mardi Gras parade since 2008 and marched in uniform for the first time in 2013. Unofficial Defence groups marched in 1996 as G-Force and again in 1999 as Unity in Defence.

Official Video from Department of Defence

Official Images from Department of Defence

Read more about Defence's diversity and inclusion strategy

Pictures by Department of Defence

Photo 1: Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen display their ADF Pride at the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade 2015

Photo 2: Air Commodore Tracey Smart, Warrant Officer of the Navy, Martin Holzberger; Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer David Ashley; and Warrant Officer of the Air Force, Mark Pentreath lead the Defence contingent at the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade 2015

Photo 3: Ms Lisa Padzensky, Mrs Cathy Holzberger, Mrs Jenny Ashley, Sergeant Rebecca Kubitzky, lead the DEFGLIS family and employee contingent at the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade 2015 while their partners lead the military contingent.

Photo 4: Leading Aircraftsman Jake Smith with a C-130J-30 Hercules aircraft.

2016 05 10 ReflectionsThumb


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