An Australian Defence Force (ADF) Chief has praised courageous LGBTI members as well as blasting those that seek to undermine the great work of inclusion that has been done in the ADF over the past 30 years.
In a keynote address at the DEFGLIS Military Pride Ball last week, Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld spoke to a crowd of 300 people, touching on the tough history for LGBTI acceptance in the ADF and how he is proud to serve with all members.
“I’m very proud to serve with all of you,” Air Marshal Hupfield said.
“It’s been a long and challenging history getting to where we’ve come in our organisation, it’s the key reason why I’m so proud to serve in our ADF and why I continue to serve.
“But it has not been an easy road, certainly not for the LGBTI community. It’s been a challenge of policy, it’s been a challenge of acceptance, it’s been a challenge of change.
“It’s the number of notable and courageous people that continue to put the effort in and work throughout a long period of time, over 30 years. This is not something that has happened overnight, it’s taken 30 years to get to the point where we are now and it’s not over yet. There’s still more to do.”
The Military Pride Ball is the main event for the Defence LGBTI community, families, friends and allies to celebrate achievements and champion inclusion with distinguished leaders from Defence and the community.
Now in its fourth year, the event promotes a safe workplace for everyone, professional networking and exchange of best-practice ideas.
Air Marshal Hupfeld continued in his speech by saying he does not understand why it is so hard that in a free and open Australia we still have to fight to get these normal privileges and rights.
“There are faceless people that take advantage of social media and other methods, to undermine what we’re trying to do to continue, not just to make our overall community better, butthe capabilities and the people that we need within the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Defence Force organisation, key elements to provide for our nation’s security.
“Indeed the Australian term of mateship has no boundaries of gender or sexual preference”.
Air Marshal Hupfeld went on to discuss how “Mateship is about bonds of community, it’s about that inclusive culture that’s so important to us, and the practice of inclusiveness and it’s about strong and supporting relationships.
“Now I expect the people I work with to be engaged, to be resilient, and I expect them to function as a team. And it’s that element that we need to celebrate in terms of the diversity that they bring. I don’t want their differences to be discriminated against, I want those differences to be the reasons why we are so competent and so good.
“The capabilities are because of those differences and those things I want to celebrate.
“This is all about an inclusive culture. We are better, stronger, when we are together.”
Other events on the night held at Sydney’s Shangri La Hotel included awards for outstanding work by LGBTI ADF members and musical entertainment provided by the Australian Army Band Sydney.
Andy and Rachel, Lieutenants in the Royal Australian Navy, were recognised for contributions to LGBTI inclusion in Defence while outgoing DEFGLIS President Vince Chong was also recognised for his many years of dedicated service to build a strong and resilient community, and to improve LGBTI inclusion in Defence.