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Glam turnout for Defence Pride

The Department of Defence has consolidated its LGBTI inclusion efforts for public service and uniformed personnel under a new Defence Pride network. The network was launched in Sydney on Saturday night at the first Military Pride Ball, hosted by DEFGLIS.

Several Commonwealth and state departments now have LGBTI employee networks, including the Victorian Department of Transport, federal Attorney-General’s Department and Australian Federal Police.

Additionally, Commonwealth employees have on their own initiative explored a whole-of-government and possibly even cross-tier network of LGBTI public servants.

The APS pride network has a Facebook and GovDex group, and held several social events last year, but lacks leadership to keep it moving or focused on any particular objective — HR policy, networking or inclusion education.

The Secretaries Board’s diversity strategy, championed by Department of Communications secretary Drew Clarke, has not resulted in any LGBTI engagement — but would be the logical choice to sponsor a whole-of-government network.

Increasingly, the private sector is seen as a better employer for LGBTI people, where affinity networks are now commonplace and inclusive workplace culture is a priority to attract and retain talented LGBTI employees.

Only two public sector entities placed in the top 20 in the 2015 Australian Workplace Equality Index — AFP and Defence at equal 17th place. The rankings by Pride in Diversity reflect the inclusive cultures of Australia’s major employers.

Awards for LGBTI inclusion excellence given at the Military Pride Ball.
Awards for LGBTI inclusion excellence at the Military Pride Ball.

Diarchy in diversity

Defence will now have two carefully balanced entities supporting their LGBTI personnel — the long-established DEFGLIS community association and the internal Defence Pride working together, according to acting director-general people strategy and culture Nikki Curtin (pictured top). She said:

“We strive to foster a culture of inclusion and respect. Defence Pride will empower Defence people to bring their whole selves to work each day — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or intersex status.”

Defence’s culture change strategy, Pathway to Change, has encouraged ADF members to be open in the workplace and demonstrated that by facilitating soldiers, sailors and airmen and women to participate in the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in uniform.

Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, vice chief of the Defence Force, said the new network was an important initiative for evolving Defence culture.

DEFGLIS was created 14 years ago with a newsletter and secret membership base of ADF members only — largely due to the work of then-Petty Officer Stuart O’Brien. It has since expanded its remit to include former personnel, families and APS, with a message encouraging personnel to be out and open about their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.

Now a Warrant Officer, O’Brien was recognised at the Military Pride Ball with an award for his contribution to the department, the ADF and the LGBTI community.

Defence Pride will commence as an APS-lead intranet SharePoint site that will host information resources and forums for conversation and education among LGBTI employees, inclusion champions and the broader workforce. For more information please contact the diversity directorate at [email protected].

The Mandarin’s editor, Harley Dennett, is a board member of DEFGLIS.

Author Bio

Harley Dennett

Harley Dennett is editor at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's held communications roles in the New South Wales public sector and Defence, and been a staff reporter for newspapers in Sydney and Washington DC.