Decade makes difference


In 2013, Defence approved its members to march in uniform at the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

A decade later, 60 ADF personnel and Defence public servants will march down Oxford Street in full ceremonials as part of the parade this month.

They will be accompanied by the Australian Defence Force Academy pipes and drums, and a contingent from the Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service (DEFGLIS) – which includes family members, ex-serving members and veterans.

Parade second-in-command Flying Officer Nathan Howarth believes Defence’s participation in the march demonstrates to future generations that it’s okay to be who you are and still be in the military.

“It’s important to show we are as much a part of Defence as our non-LGBTI counterparts. We are showing young LGBTI people there is a place form them no matter what they choose to do,” he said.

“It’s hard growing up not seeing people who are like what you want to be.”

Sydney is hosting World Pride for 2023 with the theme ‘Gather, Dream, Amplify’.

The Defence contingent hopes to represent this through gathering all three services and APS, dreaming through Indigenous dance and stories of the Navy Indigenous Performers, and to amplify the message of inclusion through marching and music.

As DEFGLIS vice-president Flying Officer Howarth has been busy co-ordinating parade preparations.

“Uniforms will be top priority. We always want to make sure that our members are looking their best for Mardi Gras,” he said.

“We will be doing dress inspections before we step off. Standard processes, like any military parade, we want it to be as professional as possible representing the ADF on the night.”

Flying Officer Howarth participated in Mardi Gras a number of times, marching with DEFGLIS in 2009 when they were first approved to march as Defence, but not in uniform.

This will be his first march as an Air Force officer, having joined the Army in 2006 as an operator movements. He transferred and commissioned in 2020.

Flying Officer Howarth said that during his time, Defence has become more inclusive and consistently less tolerant of unacceptable behaviour.

The Mardi Gras Parade will take place on Saturday, 25 February starting at 6pm.

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