Shrine of Remembrance cancels rainbow illumination

shrine of remembrance rainbow lights defending with pride exhibition
Image: Shrine of Remembrance

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance today cancelled plans to illuminate the site in rainbow colours because of abuse and threats to staff.

The Shrine of Remembrance planned the illumination to coincide with the opening of a new exhibition, Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service.

The exhibition charts lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer participation in Australia’s armed forces.

Defending with Pride and a Last Post service will continue. But the Shrine of Remembrance announced today, the rainbow illumination would not.

“Over several days, our staff have received — and been subject to — sustained abuse and, in some cases, threats.

“We have seen something of what members of the LGBTIQ+ community experience every day. It is hateful.

“In the interests of minimising harm, we have given this matter careful consideration and sought the guidance of the Shrine’s partners and friends, including veteran associations, representatives of the LGBTIQ+ veteran community and the Victorian government.

“The stories we seek to tell. The service we seek to honour. These will be told.”

Nevertheless, the Shrine committed to honouring the brave LGBTIQA+ people who served in the armed forces.

Conservative protests mirror past opposition to inclusion

Conservative commentators and some veterans opposed the rainbow lights.

But, as a statement from Shrine of Remembrance chief executive Dean Lee pointed out, that is not unusual.

“Fifty years ago, the creation of a memorial to women’s service at the Shrine was controversial and opposed by many.

“Earlier this century, similar opposition was expressed to the introduction of an annual service commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island service men and women.

“A decade ago, conversations around veteran suicide were taboo, yet today it is the subject of a Royal Commission.

“Society’s values change, and the Shrine is a participant in that change and will continue its efforts to honour the service and sacrifice of all who have served Australia.”

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