Lesbian forced out of army will address Royal Commission


Yvonne Sillett
Images: Yvonne Sillett Facebook

Decorated army veteran Yvonne Sillett will appear at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide on Monday. Yvonne was driven out of the Australian Army over her sexuality three years before the government changed policy and allowed gays and lesbians to serve.

Yvonne says on the Discharged LGBTI Veterans’ Association website (DLVA) that she joined the Army at 18. After then qualifying as a cipher operator, she obtained the Top-Secret clearance necessary for the job.

Witch-hunt

But a decade later, the army’s then discriminatory policies caught up with her.

“In 1988, I was caught up in a ‘witch-hunt’ at Watsonia Barrack for being gay.”

The Army consequently notified Yvonne Sillett that it would reduce her security clearance to Confidential. She could no longer serve in the Signal Corps.

“The prospect of future promotion was next to zero and I would never be able to train female recruits again. I elected for honourable discharge after serving for 10 years!”

If Yvonne had served another decade, she would have received a pension for life. Because of her sexuality, that never happened.

However, three years after her discharge, the policy changed. In November 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating announced homosexuals could serve in the defence forces, effective immediately.

But for Yvonne Sillett, the first female corporal to train Army recruits at Kapooka, the change came three years too late.

Yvonne shared her story in Shirleene Robinson and Noah Riseman’s Serving in Silence!

DLVA

In 2020, she became a founding member of the DLVA Association aiming to provide a voice and improve the quality of life for all people impacted by the ADF’s historic anti-LGBTI policies.

Along with her fellow DLVA members, she has long pushed for a national apology and redress scheme for the Australian Defence Force personnel, their family and their friends affected by the rules.

Yvonne and her partner of 16 years now live and works in Daylesford, home of the ChillOut Festival, Australia’s largest and most popular regional LGBTIQA+ event.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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