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Pride on Parade

DEFGLISDazzling

The second official Australian Defence Force participation in the Mardi Gras parade found new relevance amid the cultural festival’s own ratings revival.

A quarter of the contingent was comprised of straight officer cadets and midshipmen from the Australian Defence Force Academy showing a generational commitment to the evolving ADF and true mateship to their LGBTI colleagues. This year also marked the first participation by transgender Defence personnel.  

 

“Their support is a clear reflection of Army’s and ADF commitment to respecting diversity and supporting the LGBTI service men and women, said Captain Philip Murphy, commander of the Army division. “I was proud to a soldier that day and I am proud that my Army family is there to support me in the finest tradition of mateship.”

The Defence Contingent in the 2014 Mardi Gras parade was led by Captain Christine Clarke, Director of Navy People Policy who is a strong ally supporter of the LGBTI community. She led the first Navy contingent in the parade 2013 and has participated since 2008.

"I am impressed by the courage of allies from the Australian Defence Force Academy and across Defence who are here to support their LGBTI mates and be a part of this community festival," said Clarke. "They come not knowing what to expect, but are soon absorbed in the atmosphere and excitement. It is impossible not to be swept up by the overwhelming support and deafening roar provided by the crowd."

Mardi Gras is a forum that allows people to express themselves in a manner that represents who they are and why they participate. For the Australian Defence Force, this means marching in a formed body accompanied by drum corps, and strictly in accordance with Service protocol and traditions.

Participation in this community festival acknowledges the important contributions made by LGBTI service men and women to the Defence of Australia.

For the second year, volunteers from the Australian Defence Force marched smartly up Oxford St in uniform accompanied by the Australian Defence Force Academy Drum Corps. Family members, employees and friends joined to support the marching troops with Defence LGBTI Information Service (DEFGLIS), lending their support and enthusiasm by interacting with the cheering spectators.

“I always get a buzz from soldiers, sailors and airmen telling me how much Mardi Gras boosts their confidence and how they feel strongly valued by Defence,” said Squadron Leader Vince Chong, parade organiser. “Its an honour to be able show the community that respect is a key value for Air Force, and our interest in talented individuals.”

Mardi Gras is the one opportunity each year where personnel can be proud of who they are by participating in a community event while representing the ADF all at the same time. Every year, Mardi Gras boosts the confidence of many soldiers, sailors and airmen, where the ADF shows that it strongly values and respects the contribution of LGBTI personnel.

For Leading Seaman Gray Carroll, the 2014 Mardi Gras represents the sixth Mardi Gras that he has participated to represent his pride in the diversity of the Australian Defence Force.

“Last year my partner didn’t have the confidence to participate, but watched the parade. This year he was up front carrying the banner with me, which is testament to the mateship and support DEFGLIS provides to the Defence LGBTI community," said Carroll.

DEFGLIS Founder and Parade Warrant Officer Stuart O'Brien what participating in the parade means to him.

"When I think about why I personally march, it’s very simple – to show to the wider community how proud I am to serve in the Australian Defence Force," said O'Brien. "As a leader I feel it’s important to lead from the front and by stepping out, I show others that is okay to be themselves, to acknowledge who they are so they can perform to the best of their ability - without worrying about their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status."

The Australian Defence Force marched in the "Protect and Defend" section of the parade alongside other uniformed government such as the Australian Federal Police, New South Wales Police, Ambulance, Fire Protection and State Emergency Services.

The 2014 festival produced a substantial boost in ratings for the first time since the mid 90s. Parade coverage is available via SBS On Demand.

Link to Defence Image Gallery - 2014 Mardi Gras

Link to SBS2 Online Coverage of Mardi Gras

Images © Commonwealth of Australia, Photographer: ABIS Jake Badior

About the Author
Author: Vince Chong
Vince is the President of DEFGLIS. He is a project manager and an electronics engineer.
Also written by this author:

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