In photos: Veterans march in 2024 Mardi Gras parade

Photos from the 2024 Mardi Gras parade, and an RSL NSW member’s reflections on supporting LGBTIQA+ veterans and Defence personnel.

At a glance:

  • More than 90 LGBTIQA+ veterans and Defence personnel joined the 2024 Mardi Gras parade, including members of the Defence LGBTI Information Service (DEFGLIS).
  • The group’s presence in the parade was important for visibility and acceptance of LGBTIQA+ Defence personnel and veterans, according to DEFGLIS President Rachael Cosgrove.
  • Cosgrove is also a member of the Mascot RSL sub-Branch, which recently organised a recreational community event that attracted 120 people.
  • “It was important for us to promote the activity as a safe space for LGBTIQA+ people,” she says.

 

Members of the Defence LGBTI Information Service (DEFGLIS) participated in the 2024 Mardi Gras parade on the weekend, joining together in the spirit of mateship and camaraderie to celebrate diversity and inclusion within Defence and the RSL NSW network.

As an information service, DEFGLIS delivers news to and organises activities for its members and the broader Defence and LGBTIQA+ communities.

RSL NSW supports DEFGLIS in its mission, and welcomes all members of DEFGLIS to access support, services and community offered by RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services.

 

Australian Defence Force and Defence Civilian participants take part in the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford Street, Sydney.

 

Royal Australian Air Force officer Flight Lieutenant Nathan Howarth waves to the crowd during the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Oxford Street, Sydney.

DEFGLIS President and Mascot RSL sub-Branch member Rachael Cosgrove remarked on the importance of having a presence in the parade, and the visibility for the wider community of LGBTIQA+ veterans, Defence personnel and Defence public servants.

“This year we had 90 personnel register to march in the Mardi Gras parade, across two floats: one for serving Defence personnel – the uniformed contingent – and public servants, and one for DEFGLIS members,” says Cosgrove.

 

Defence LGBTI Information Service President, Lieutenant Commander Rachael Cosgrove-White takes part in the 2024 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford Street, Sydney.

 

Defence LGBTI Information Service President, Lieutenant Commander Rachael Cosgrove-White interacts with the crowd at the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Oxford Street, Sydney.

The parade featured Chief Petty Officer Anita van der Meer, who Cosgrove says was investigated in the 1990s for being in a gay relationship.

“She then took her story to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which was instrumental in influencing Prime Minister Paul Keating to lift the ban on LGBTIQA+ people serving in the military,” explains Cosgrove.

 

Royal Australian Air Force officer Flying Officer Allysha McPherson during the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

 

Australian Defence Force and Defence Civilian participants take part in the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford Street, Sydney.

Cosgrove is proud to have shared van der Meer’s story with a bigger audience.

“There are some really beautiful acknowledgments of historical stories such as van der Meer’s that mean a lot to the community,” says Cosgrove. “This helps promote who we are and the reason why we do what we do.”

 

Members of the Australian Defence Force and Defence Civilian contingent prior to the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in Hyde Park, Sydney.

 

Australian Defence Force and Defence Civilian participants take part in the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford Street, Sydney.

As a member of the Mascot RSL sub-Branch, Cosgroves helps to organise community-oriented activities.

“We organised one such event recently where 120 people showed up, which was fantastic to see,” she says. “It was important for us to promote the activity as a safe space for LGBTIQA+ people.

“The sub-Branch plans to continue hosting these events about three or four times a year to emphasise that it’s no longer only about dads in uniform. It’s also about the partners and kids, and of course it’s not only dads who serve – after all, I’m the uniformed mum in my family.”

Cosgrove says the sub-Branch is emphasising and celebrating what the RSL stands for – namely respect, remembrance, community and camaraderie.

 

Australian Defence Force and Defence Civilian participants take part in the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford Street, Sydney.

 

A member of the Australian Defence Force Academy Pipes and Drums during the 2024 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Oxford Street, Sydney.

Post-Mardi Gras, Cosgrove says that DEFGLIS plans to quickly shift focus to its Rainbow Wreath project ahead of ANZAC Day.

Laying a wreath wasn’t always possible for LGBTIQA+ veterans and Defence personnel – in an infamous incident in 1982, a group of five veterans were prevented from laying a wreath at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne because of their sexuality.

“The project involves getting members of the LGBTIQA+ community to lay a rainbow wreath on ANZAC Day, wreaths dedicated to the service of LGBTIQA+ people in the Australian military forces,” explains Cosgrove.

“There are 13 or 14 areas around Australia that will be covered. It’s shaping up to be a really big project.”

 

The Australian Defence Force and Defence Civilian contingent prior to the 2024 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in Hyde Park, Sydney.

 

The Australian Defence Force 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras contingent before stepping off for the parade at Victoria Barracks, Sydney.

© All images credit: Defence Media

The 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a community festival supported by Defence to promote the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce for Defence capability, and demonstrate that both the APS and ADF reflect the community they serve.

RSL NSW welcomes veterans and current Defence personnel of any service length and background to join the organisation. Access support services and become part of a community of peers – become a member of RSL NSW.

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