Address to the DEFGLIS Military Pride Ball, Sydney NSW

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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2 September 2023

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and I pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence, Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Assistant Minister for the Republic, I also pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served our nation in the past and continue to do so today.

Thank you to the DEFGLIS Board, including the President, Lieutenant Rachael Cosgrove, and the Vice President, Flight Lieutenant Nathan Howarth, for the warm welcome.

Current and former serving members of the Australian Defence Force;

Families and allies; friends all.

It’s a great pleasure to be joining you again here at the Military Pride Ball.

Tonight’s celebration promises to be even bigger, better and more colourful than last year.

It’s a privilege to have this opportunity to speak to you on behalf of the Albanese Government...

As we come together to celebrate the achievements of the Defence LGBTI community...

And show our ongoing support for greater inclusion within Defence and across our entire nation.

It feels good to see so many familiar faces in the audience.

Some of you I met at last year’s Ball...

Others I recognise from Mardi Gras, when we welcomed the world to Sydney for World Pride.

This year marks 10 years since LGBTI personnel first marched in uniform at the Mardi Gras Parade.

It was an honour for me to join Anthony Albanese and Matt Keogh...

The first time a sitting Prime Minister has marched in the Parade... 

And it was in a similar spirit of celebration and commemoration that for the first time Defence Ministers marched alongside members of the ADF.

The message is clear:

We are proud to walk with you, stand with you and to work alongside you.

You are welcome...

You are valued...

And we’ll continue to amplify the fantastic work you do as ambassadors for inclusion and to create working environments where everyone can thrive.

So, if you’re considering a career in the ADF and wondering whether it’s a place for people like you...

The answer is we’re proud to have you.

We’ve come a long way, and our journey continues.

Like me, I’m sure many of you followed the Matildas through the highs and lows of the Women’s World Cup. 

The tournament was a huge success, with the semi-final against England setting a new TV audience record.

Actually, it all got a bit out of hand...

I think Mackenzie Arnold even took over as Defence Minister at one point.  

Perhaps the greatest victory is that the Matildas have become sporting heroes to millions across the country, from school playgrounds to local pubs, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.

But tonight, let’s celebrate the fact that many of the nation’s new heroes are proud gay women.

They’ve captivated cheering crowds with their skills on the pitch...

And by sharing joyful photos of themselves with their partners, wives and children on social media...

They’ve given strength to countless people facing discrimination.

I’ll conclude my remarks with a quote from Matildas captain Sam Kerr:

“To wear the Australian jersey is always a massive honour, but to wear the rainbow colours, something that I’ve always been really proud and passionate about, is really special.”

The same goes for the ADF.

You are right to be proud to serve our nation...

You are right to be proud of who you are.

And I am proud to join you here tonight and to be part of government that celebrates inclusion. 

Have an amazing time tonight.

Thank you.


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