As Trump bans transgender soldiers, Australia pushes for diversity in armed forces
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As Trump bans transgender soldiers, Australia pushes for diversity in armed forces

AUSTRALIA’s army, navy and air forces are renewing their campaign to boost diversity within the armed forces, at a time when the country’s major ally the United States has shut the door on transgender troops.

The country’s Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne last Friday announced a new advertising campaign promoting employment in the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) to Australians from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds.

Servicemen and women from indigenous, Vietnamese, Indian and Muslim backgrounds are amongst those featured by the ADF Families campaign.

SEE ALSO: Census reveals Australia more Asian, less religious than ever

Senator Payne said it was part of the government’s commitment to ensuring the military “reflects the Australian community it seeks to protect.”

“A diverse workforce provides a greater range of ideas and insights to challenge accepted norms and will help strengthen our capability and our operational effectiveness,” she said as quoted by SBS.

The move stands in stark contrast with Australia’s ally the US – alongside whom it has fought more than 10 wars including in Iraq, Afghanistan and now against the Islamic State – who have just banned transgender troops from joining its armed forces.

US President Donald Trump caused controversy when he announced via Twitter transgender Americans would no longer be permitted to fight in the nation’s armed forces, a decision said to have “blindsided” many in the Pentagon.

Transgender former Australian Army officer Catherine McGregor called Trump’s decision “regrettable” and said “in a democracy, any suitably qualified person” should be able to serve in the military so long as they were fit and patriotic to do so.

SEE ALSO: Australia military may scrap all gender barriers

Under the leadership of Lieutenant-General David Morrison, the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) has pushed for greater diversity of cultural backgrounds, gender and sexuality.

According to Defence’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2012-2017, the department prioritises recruitment of women, indigenous Australians, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI persons.


Source: Department of Defence

The ADF lifted its ban on allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in 1992 and a study in 2000 found the move had no identifiable negative effects on troop morale, combat effectiveness or any other measure of military performance.

“While the lifting of the ban was not immediately followed by large numbers of personnel declaring their sexual orientation, by the late 1990s, significant numbers of officers and enlisted personnel had successfully and largely uneventfully come out to their peers,” the report said.

SEE ALSO: Almost half of all Australians see China as military threat – poll

There is a dedicated organisation for ADF LGBTI personnel and their families called DEFGLIS and since 2013, ADF members have worn their uniforms while participating in Sydney’s iconic Mardi Gras.

“Everyone in Defence – LGBTI or not – serves their country with pride and marching at the Mardi Gras shows LGBTI members are accepted, and welcome in our workplace,” Able Seaman Rhys Noblett told the Navy Daily in March.


Soldiers from the Australian Army’s 5th Battalion watch as the US Marine Corps C-130 Hercules, AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1Y Venom aircraft prepare to depart an airstrip in Australia, on June 25, 2017. Source: ADF


“I think it’s important for organisations that may have had a history of homophobia to show we represent all of the community, we are a great place to work, and that the ADF values LGBTI members,” Able Seaman Paul Hollingworth said.

The air force, army and navy are all listed as LGBTI-inclusive workplaces by online platform Australia’s LGBTI-Inclusive Employers, while the Defence Department was acknowledged by the AHRI Inclusion and Diversity Awards in 2014.