Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service

Shrine-Melbourne-Rainbow-WreathRevealing the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the Shrine of Remembrance is proud to present their latest exhibition,  Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service, opening 1 August 2022.

Opening 1 August, Defending with Pride is the third and final Shrine exhibition in a special series exploring themes of individual identity in times of war. This is the first time LGBTQ+ service has been examined in a dedicated exhibition by an Australian war memorial.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people have been proudly defending Australia through their military service since the formation of the armed forces. This exhibition charts the long and often difficult journey faced by LGBTQ+ people in gaining recognition, acceptance and celebration of their contribution to the ADF.

Curated in partnership with an advisory group of ex and current LGBTQ+ service personnel and drawing on collections from the Australian Queer Archives, Defending with Pride uncovers the long history of LGBTQ+ service; from stories of same-sex attraction in the First World War and the fluidity of sexual identity in wartime, to the ‘witch hunts’ that sought to out LGBTQ+ service people in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, to ADF’s support for the recognition of same-sex couples.

An immersive exhibition featuring images, objects and video interviews, the centrepiece of Defending with Pride is the personal stories and reflections of veterans and current serving ADF personnel. Their testimony speaks to the richness and diversity of experiences of LGBTQ+ people in service, and highlights their continuing journey.

“I am honoured to have worked with the participants and advisory group to help present their stories and experiences,” said curator of Defending with Pride, Kate Spinks.

“I am also proud that Melbourne’s Shrine is recognising and celebrating the history and service of LGBTQ+ people, something that has traditionally been absent or under-represented within Australia’s war memorials,” said Spinks.

“This exhibition highlights the service LGBTQ+ Australians gave to their country, even when the country said they were not welcome,” said advisory group member, Professor Noah Riseman.

“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.”

The Shrine’s weekly Last Post Service at 4.45pm on Sunday 31 July will honour the contribution of LGBTQ+ personnel, and that evening the Shrine colonnades will be lit in rainbow colours to celebrate the contribution of past and present LGBTQ+ ADF personnel and the opening of Defending with Pride.

The exhibition is also supported by a three-part podcast series hosted by Megan Spencer featuring interviews with veterans from the LGBTQ+ community.

Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service
The Shrine of Remembrance, Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne
Exhibition: 1 August 2022 – July 2023
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Rainbow wreath, 2022 Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne – photo by Susan Gordon-Brown

On Anzac Day 2015, DEFGLIS began the tradition of laying a rainbow wreath in recognition of all LGBTI service during war. The first wreath was laid at the Shrine of Remembrance, and since then each year rainbow wreaths are laid at memorials around the country.

This wreath was laid by representatives of DEFGLIS on Anzac Day 2022, and is of special significance as this year marks 40 years since the Gay Ex Servicemen Association was denied the right to lay a wreath at the Shrine in honour of gay and lesbian people who had served and died in war.