Plans to illuminate Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance in rainbow colors have been halted after staff were subjected to “hateful” threats and abuse.
The exhibit was designed to commemorate LGBTQI people employed as part of the upcoming Defending with Pride exhibit, detailing their stories of denial, exclusion, recognition and inclusion.
The Shrine of Remembrance organization announced on Saturday afternoon that the exhibition and Last Post service scheduled for Sunday would continue, but that the lighting of the colonnades would not.
“For several days, our employees have received and suffered continued abuse and, in some cases, threats,” said CEO Dean Lee.
“We’ve seen something of what members of the LGBTIQ+ community experience every day. It’s hateful.”
To minimize damage, the sanctuary sought help from partners, veterans’ associations, the Victorian government, and representatives of the LGBTQI veteran community.
Some media commentators and community members opposed the light show.
Mr. Lee noted that 50 years ago the creation of a women’s service memorial was controversial and opposed by many, as was the introduction of an annual service commemorating the Aboriginal people and residents of Torres Strait Islander.
“We are proud to recognize and celebrate the history and service of LGBTIQ+ people, something that has traditionally been absent or underrepresented in Australia’s war memorials,” he said.
“A decade ago, conversations about veteran suicide were taboo, but today it is the subject of a royal commission.
“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.”
Tourism Minister Steve Dimopoulos said the shrine’s administrators held one of the most important jobs in the country, but the light show’s cancellation was up to them.
“Not only as a gay man, but also as a Victorian, the fact that there will be an exhibition recognizing the contribution of current and former enlisted members of the LGBTIQ+ armed forces… is incredible,” he told reporters.
The sanctuary’s pride exhibition will officially run from August to July 2023.