Shrine of Remembrance to light up in rainbow for LGBTQ+ event

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

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance will light up in rainbow colours this weekend for a special service and a new exhibition sharing the history LGBTQ+ service members.

New exhibition Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service opens on August 1 at the Shrine in Melbourne.

The immersive exhibition reveals the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Australians have been proudly defending their country through military service since the armed forces began.

But it’s the first time a dedicated exhibition has shared their history inside an Australian war memorial.

Defending with Pride charts the long and often difficult journey faced by LGBTQ+ people in gaining recognition, acceptance and celebration of their contribution to the ADF.

It shares fascinating stories from same-sex attraction in the First World War to the fluidity of sexual identity in wartime, to the “witch hunts” that sought to out LGBTQ+ service people in the 1970s and 80s and the ADF’s eventual recognition of same-sex couples.

Defending with Pride was curated in partnership with an advisory group of ex and current LGBTQ+ service personnel and draws on collections from the Australian Queer Archives.

Curator Kate Spinks said it was an honour for her to work with the veterans and current serving ADF personnel to hear their personal stories and reflections.

“I’m also proud that Melbourne’s Shrine is recognising and celebrating the history and service of LGBTQ+ people,” she said.

“It’s something that has traditionally been absent or under-represented within Australia’s war memorials.”

Special Last Post ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance

Historian and author Professor Noah Riseman, who co-wrote the book Pride in Defence in 2020, was part of the exhibition’s advisory group.

“This exhibition highlights the service LGBTQ+ Australians gave to their country,” he said.

“Even when the country said they were not welcome.

“It showcases LGBTQ+ service members’ achievements amidst adversity and how, over time, the ADF has changed its tune to embrace the strengths that LGBTQ+ service members bring to the force.”

Defending with Pride is one of a special series of exhibitions exploring themes of individual identity in times of war.

The exhibition opens at the Shrine on Monday, August 1 and will run until July next year.

On Sunday (July 31), the Shrine’s weekly Last Post Service from 4.45pm will honour the contribution of LGBTQ+ personnel.

That evening the Shrine colonnades will also light up in rainbow colours to celebrate past and present LGBTQ+ ADF personnel and the exhibition’s opening.

Find out more at the Shrine of Remembrance website here.

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