Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance cancels rainbow light plan, citing threats and abuse

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance has canceled plans to illuminate the site in rainbow colors, citing “ongoing abuse” and threats directed at staff.

Sunday night’s rainbow plan would coincide with the opening of a new exhibit at the Shrine called Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service.

It is an exhibition that charts the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queers in the Australian armed forces.

The exhibit and a Last Post service will still continue as of Sunday, but Shrine of Remembrance chief executive Dean Lee confirmed the rainbow lighting would not.

“Over the course of several days, our employees have received and suffered continued beatings and, in some cases, threats,” he said in a statement.

“We’ve seen something of what members of the LGBTIQ+ community experience every day. It’s hateful.”

Some social media activity had suggested protests against the lights could take place on Sunday afternoon.

The shrine was the scene of violent scenes in September when anti-lockdown protesters were involved in a tense clash with police.

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In September 2021, Melbourne protesters were met by riot police at Shrine of Remembrance.

“In the interest of minimizing harm, we have carefully considered this issue and sought the assistance of the Shrine’s partners and friends, including veterans’ associations, representatives of the LGBTIQ+ veteran community and the Victorian Government.said Mr. Lee.

“The stories we want to tell. The service we want to honor. These will be told. The brave lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and gender diverse and queers in the armed forces will be honored.”

The move to illuminate the shrine drew some backlash from conservative commentators, who expressed concerns about the “politicization” of the site. Some veterans also opposed the move.

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Lee pointed to the recent lighting of the building in memory of assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he defended the week’s decision.

It is also lit in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and in memory of the police officers who died in the tragedy of the Eastern Freeway crash in 2020.

Exhibition is still going on

Questioned hours before the sanctuary confirmed the news, state government minister Steve Dimopoulos said: “That’s a matter for them [the Shrine]. I’m not going to comment on that.”

“Besides to say to you, not only as a gay man but also as a Victorian, it is incredible that there will be an exhibition recognizing the contribution of LGBTIQ+ current and former serving members of the armed forces.”

Until 20 years ago, non-straight personnel were banned from serving in the military and were investigated under various policies and discharged from the armed forces.

40 years ago, a group of gay veterans were stopped from laying a wreath ahead of ANZAC Day.

Phil Neil – the last living member of that group – told ABC Radio Melbourne on Friday that it was hard to be taunted after risking his life for the country.

The ban on gay and lesbian personnel was lifted in November 1992, but The Australian War Memorial wrote in 2020 that it did not end discrimination within the police force.

Policy has changed dramatically over the past two decades and transgender personnel have been allowed to serve openly and transition with support from 2010 onwards.

In his statement, Mr Lee said measures to commemorate the service to women and Indigenous Australians had faced opposition in the past.

“Ten years ago, conversations about veteran suicide were taboo, but today is the subject of a royal commission,” he said.

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

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