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Rainbow Wreath services bring generations together

National DEFGLIS Rainbow Wreath services create transgenerational conversations on Anzac Day

Anzac Day is an important day for all Australians, where we celebrate the bravery and courage demonstrated during wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. It is a day to celebrate our shared values that were forged on the battlefield and make us proud of who we are.

Wreath laying is a commemorative tradition of great importance, which has evolved over the years to recognise the diversity of the different groups who contributed and sacrificed in the service of our country. DEFGLIS participates in Anzac Day to acknowledge all Australians who served. Our Rainbow Wreath acts as commemorative and colourful tribute to remember LGBTI personnel who served, many in silence.

On ANZAC Day, Rainbow Wreath services were delivered across the country by DEFGLIS volunteers of the Australian Defence Force, Defence Department, ex-serving, veterans and their families.

Julie Hill and James Bonello conducted the Rainbow Wreath service in Semaphore, Adelaide.

“It’s important to lay rainbow wreaths because our military history is built upon the brave, selfless service of such amazing and diverse Australians.” said Bonello.

“I want to openly be part of an inclusive society that applauds, mourns, celebrates and thanks the service of our predecessors, including the hidden or invisible LGBTI heroes who were forced to hide parts of themselves, while giving their all for their country."

History shows that the diversity of the ANZACs reflects the rich diversity of the Australian Defence Force today. The LGBTI community's shared connection to service is highlighted by the participation of veterans and ex-serving in today’s services. Yvonne Sillett joined the Army at the age of eighteen and served for 10 years in Royal Australian Corps of Signals, two of those years as a recruit instructor. Sillett led the service in Daylesford, Victoria.

“I was asked to tell my story, [which] is now in the book 'Serving in Silence’. This experience has been extremely cathartic for me. It gave me me the courage to tell my story and feel proud.” said Sillett.

Don Robertson led the service in Sydney’s Martin Place, and spoke of a humbling experience alongside Leon Fry, a RAAF veteran who retired in 1987.

“Leon spoke of how difficult it was being gay in the military during those times, particularly how he wasn’t allowed to be out. I was so proud to be there today and glad I could share that experience with him,” Said Robertson.

Many LGBTI veterans have taken a long time to process their experiences of being in service. They have greatly contributed to the defence of Australia and it is important that their service is celebrated. Projects like the Rainbow Wreath service celebrate the importance of honouring the rich diversity of veterans that should stand alongside the stereotypical Anzac hero in the minds of the public.

25 April 2019

Image courtesy of Adrain Phoon.