Defence leaders urged to support LGBTIQ staff following ‘divisive’ ban

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday June 3, 2021

Lieutenant Kyle Irvine speaks with HMAS Stirling ship's company during a morning tea for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) at Stirling in Western Australia.
Lieutenant Kyle Irvine speaks with HMAS Stirling ship’s company during a morning tea for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) at Stirling in Western Australia. (Image: Defence)

The Community and Public Sector Union has written to defence secretary Greg Moriarty and Defence Force chief Angus Campbell calling on them to support their LGBTIQ staff, after employees were banned from holding diversity morning teas.

The Department of Defence recently issued a message banning the activity, as well as the wearing of clothing that celebrates diversity, and ‘changing language protocols’ within the department.

The message to staff, called a DEFGRAM, was issued under the direction of defence minister Peter Dutton, who, among other criticisms of the initiatives, said the department was not ‘pursuing a woke agenda’.

In an email to the defence leaders on Thursday, the CPSU’s Department of Defence Section Council said the DEFGRAM and Dutton’s comments were hurtful to defence LGBTI+ staff and their allies.

“While the minister may not wish to acknowledge it, there are LGBTI+ people serving in our military, there are LGBTI+ civilians who work in defence and there are LGBTI+ people in the Australian community that the department is sworn to defend,” it wrote.

“LGBTI+ employees have been told before that their existence will undermine military ‘morale’ and distract or even threaten national security. It was then and is today a homophobic argument that has no basis in fact. Yet this view appears to be reappearing at the highest levels in Defence.

“The existence of LGBTI+ employees and their right to be safe is not a political agenda.”

The union said it has been contacted by numerous hurt and angry members since the DEFGRAM was issued.

One member told the union that the DEFGRAM was ‘the most regressive, hateful, and mean spirited thing’ they have read from defence leaders in their nearly three decades at the department. Another member said they did not feel included or respected by their leaders as a result of the message.

“This has had a direct and negative impact on my mental health and I am seriously questioning why I am working for an organisation that doesn’t value me,” they said.

The union also pointed out that the DEFGRAM contradicted Defence’s Pathway to Change program, which aims to promote ‘a more inclusive, respectful and safe working environment’.

During questioning about the directive, defence secretary Greg Moriarty recently told senate estimates that the department supports staff ‘through our values and behaviours’. But CPSU deputy national president Brooke Muscat has said that’s not good enough.

“It is not enough for leadership to say they support their staff; they must back them in when ministers try to play politics,” she said.

“People want to feel safe at work, and when you have a minister targeting one group of people that cannot happen. The minister should turn his mind to the real issues facing Australia’s security and defences, not to his callous and divisive pet projects.”

CPSU members plan to hold union meetings over morning tea across the department, during their work breaks, to support their LGBTIQ colleagues.

It is currently World Pride Month.

Read more: Defence chief: ‘we’ve taken flak … but we know it’s the right direction’


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