Australian defence personnel who were dishonourably discharged from the military on the basis of their sexuality deserve a national apology and compensation, a military historian has told the federal government.
Australian Catholic University associate professor Noah Riseman has sent a policy brief document to federal defence minister Christopher Pyne explaining many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members suffered great emotional and financial distress under past military policies, The Guardian reported.
The personnel should be eligible for a financial redress scheme similar to that available for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, the document reads.
“The stress of hiding their authentic selves and the traumatising experience of the investigations, interviews and discharges have left ongoing mental health problems for some ex-service personnel,” the policy brief reads.
“We also know that there were LGBT members under investigation who suicided.
“For those who rebuilt their lives after discharging, still there is the feeling that the ADF abandoned them and there has never been a proper reconciliation.”
To compile the document, Riseman spoke to 130 people and he said most opted to go quietly to avoid a dishonourable discharge affecting their record.
But records he accessed under Freedom of Information show between 1953 and 1992 at least 489 men and 165 women were investigated for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Riseman is also calling for ex-service members dishonourably discharged for their sexuality or gender identity to be able to apply to have the discharges changed to honourable.
A spokesperson for Christopher Pyne’s office told The Guardian a national apology and redress scheme was “a broader government issue.”
Danny Liversidge told The Guardian he was a driver in the RAAF, but just three years into his career, in 1991, he was ordered into a meeting by RAAF police.
In the meeting he was interrogated about his sexuality by two police officers, as two commanders watched on.
Aged 21 at the time, Liversidge was shown photos of himself outside known gay bars and with members of the gay community.
He was given the option to either leave willingly and without a scene or receive a dishonourable discharge and his homosexuality recorded on his file and be forced out. He chose to leave.
“I wasn’t even out to my family at the time,” he said.
“I was escorted off base four days later and until then I was confined to my room and not allowed to talk to anyone. I was escorted off base.
“I wasn’t able to speak to anyone in those four days so hadn’t been able to arrange accommodation and I had nowhere to go and nowhere to live.
“It’s like I was given an official government rubber stamp that said ‘You’re not good enough.'”
The policy brief notes the Australian Defence Force has “come a long way” in the years since.
The ADF lifted its ban on gay and lesbian personnel in late 1992 and rescinded the ban on transgender troops in 2010.
In late 2005, the ADF amended its policies to recognise same-sex partners in de facto relationships.
Since 2013 the ADF has permitted LGBTIQ service members to march in uniform in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.