Defence staff voiced disappointment and disturbance for LGBTIQ workers over defence minister Peter Dutton’s decision to ban diversity morning teas in the department, newly released documents show.
The Department of Defence earlier this year told staff it was banning the events, as well as the wearing of clothing that celebrated diversity, and signalled a shift in language used within the department.
The message to staff, called a DEFGRAM, was issued under the direction of Dutton, who said he would not tolerate discrimination but also would not be “pursuing a woke agenda”.
The direction followed staff in May marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — or IDAHOBIT Day.
Emails obtained under freedom of information and published by the Nine newspapers on Thursday show some defence staff expressed “disappointment and shame” and were “incredibly distressed” by the direction.
“I think it’s a terrible reaction that is damaging on many levels,” one Defence member wrote.
“The timing of this DEFGRAM further concretes my decision to leave Defence.”
The same member said the cancellation of the diversity celebration cemented for them the notion “people in Defence are not valued for the kaleidoscope of experience, capability and character” but were a “cog in the big Defence machine”.
The Community and Public Sector Union wrote to defence secretary Greg Moriarty and Defence Force chief Angus Campbell in June pointing out the direction was hurtful to LGBTIQ staff.
It also highlighted that the direction contradicted Defence’s Pathway to Change program, which aimed to promote “a more inclusive, respectful and safe working environment”.
“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,” the union 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.”