In their new book, Pride in Defence: The Australian Military and LGBTI Service since 1945, Noah Riseman and Shirleene Robinson share the post-World War II experiences of LGBTI members of the Australian Defence Force.
The authors previously documented the integral role played by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women in Australia’s military. This book builds on their work in Serving in Silence? with Graham Willett.
With Pride in Defence, they confront the silence referenced in the previous work. Noah and Shirleene also chart the changing policies and practices of the Australian Defence Force.
“Since the Second World War, the Australian military has undergone remarkable transformations in the way it has treated lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex service members. It has shifted from persecuting, hunting and discharging LGBTI members to embracing them as valued members who enhance the Force’s capabilities.”
Shirleene and Noah explain how the still extant ANZAC mythology influenced the military experience of Australian service men and women right up to the current day. They write of the “defining [of] a particular iconic Australian ‘digger’ as a soldier who, by extension, is the embodiment of Australian nationhood.”
The real strength of Pride in Defence is the authors’ affinity with their interview subjects. The book draws on over 140 interviews and previously unexamined documents. It tells the stories of clandestine romances, police surveillance and traumatic discharges. It is truly extraordinary to read some of the stories of the prejudice experienced by fellow LGBTI community members as they served their country — sometimes even on the front lines.
However, courageous members of our communities over time proved the value of diversity to the Australian Defence Force. Their commitment over time helped make it a more vital institution.
Pride in Defence is one of those wonderful exceptions that it both a scholarly resource and a great read.
About the Authors
Noah Riseman is Professor of History at Australian Catholic University. He specialises in Australian histories of sexuality, gender and race.
Shirleene Robinson is Senior Curator of Oral History and Indigenous Programs at the National Library of Australia. She is also Honorary Associate Professor of Modern History at Macquarie University.
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