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Service Warrant Officers to march at Mardi Gras 2015

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The most senior enlisted members of the Navy, Army and Air Force have volunteered to provide leadership for the contingent of sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen at the 2015 Sydney Mardi Gras parade.

The Warrant Officer of the Navy, Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, and Warrant Officer of the Air Force will represent the Defence leadership’s commitment to ongoing cultural change and achieving Defence’s cultural intent trusted to defend, proven to deliver, respectful always by participating in the 2015 Sydney Mardi Gras parade.

This year will mark the third time that Defence has officially participated in the LGBTI community festival and the first time that members of the senior leadership from all three services are represented.

Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer David Ashley, AM, said that diversity in the Army is a very real value that is fundamental to capability.

“Our Army and the ADF is made up of exceptional people from all backgrounds, groups and orientations,” WO Ashley said.

“As RSM of the Army, I’m not marching for the celebration of Mardi Gras, I am marching in support of our soldiers. The service Warrant Officers are here because we are proud of all of our people and just like those marching, we are proud of our uniform.”

Defence’s visible presence at this national cultural event provides an opportunity for serving members to demonstrate to the LGBTI community, their deep pride and loyalty to their Service as well as signifying Defence’s commitment to an inclusive and respectful workplace.

“My participation is part of Navy and Defence’s ongoing effort to promote inclusion and greater respect for the men and women that make up our talented and diverse workforce,” said Warrant Officer of the Navy, Martin Holzberger.

Warrant Officer of the Air Force, Mark Pentreath, said that he was humbled that the airmen and airwomen of the Air Force were proud to have him co-lead the ADF contingent at the Mardi Gras parade.

“Why wouldn’t I be proud? These men and women are part of the team that is our future as an ADF.

“To me, marching in the Mardi Gras parade is no different to representing the Air Force at any cultural event that is important to our people such as White Ribbon Day, or International Women’s Day,” Warrant Officer Pentreath said.

2014 03 01 DrumCorpsAfter watching Defence in the Mardi Gras parade last year, Leading Aircraftsman Jake Smith said that he gained the confidence to be open and authentic about his sexual orientation at work.

“Without seeing the march, I would still be in the closet and hating life,” said Jake, who is an Avionics Technician at No. 37 Squadron in the Royal Australian Air Force.

“Everyone has been really awesome. People don’t feel the need to walk on egg shells around me.

“I wholeheartedly feel accepted by my workmates and I am in a workplace with an accepting culture, not a bunch of rules stopping discrimination,” Leading Aircraftsman Smith said.

Families of serving members, and Defence civilians, will also be joining the Defence contingent in this year’s Mardi Gras parade, as they have done in increasing numbers for the past three years.

Defence will join other Australian uniformed agencies participating in the parade, including state and federal Police, Fire, Ambulance and the State Emergency Services.

Defence participation in the parade meets Defence’s objectives to enhance capability through diversity and inclusive practice as identified in the Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2012–2017.

The policy regarding homosexual behaviour in the Australian Defence Force was rescinded in 1992 and the policy banning transgender personnel was rescinded in 2010.

The combined Defence and DEFGLIS contingent at Mardi Gras is currently at capacity. Interested members and families may register for a waiting list, and will be informed if a place becomes available.

Please register online for the waiting list at the DEFGLIS website.


Pictured Above—Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger, Warrant Officer David Ashley and Warrant Officer Mark Pentreath who will lead the Services in the 2015 Mardi Gras parade.
Image by Department of Defence

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