11 May 2019
For the first time, a Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has marched in a Pride Parade.
Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short marched today in the Wellington International Pride Parade.
The parade, part of the Wellington Pride Festival, celebrated the acceptance of diversity in New Zealand and the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) communities.
The NZDF is celebrating this year Pride 25, marking 25 years since LGBT+ personnel were welcomed to serve openly in the NZDF.
NZDF personnel from the New Zealand Army, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Royal New Zealand Navy and civilian colleagues marched in the parade as part of a series of public events planned this year to commemorate and celebrate this milestone.
Not only was it the first time a Chief of Defence Force has marched in such a parade in New Zealand, it was one of only a few times this has happened globally.
“We are proud to be one of the leaders in military LGBT+ inclusion,” Air Marshal Short said.
“The parade is an opportunity to celebrate diversity within our Force and to show our commitment to continuing the journey we started 25 years ago.”
Following the passing of the Human Rights Act in 1993, the NZDF moved swiftly to incorporate the Act into its policies, and in early 1994 openly homosexual men and women were able to join and serve.
“We are marching to remember those who have left the NZDF over the years because they did not always feel safe, welcome or supported, and to honour the trailblazers who helped to build a more inclusive organisation,” Air Marshal Short said.
Squadron Leader Stu Pearce, leader of the NZDF’s LGBT+ peer group OverWatch, said having the Chief of Defence Force march in the parade sent a powerful message to NZDF personnel.
“Knowing we have the support from the very top is encouraging and empowering and sets the tone for an organisation that values all of its people, no matter what point of difference might exist,” Squadron Leader Pearce said.
The parade was originally scheduled for March 16, but was postponed because of the Christchurch terror attacks.
“In light of Christchurch, marching in the parade is a visible way for us to stand alongside New Zealanders committed to a more diverse and accepting Aotearoa,” Squadron Leader Pearce said.
“The NZDF is a Force for all New Zealanders.”
Chief of Army Major General John Boswell, Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark and Commander of Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral James Gilmour also marched in the parade.
Later in the year there will be a photo exhibition in Auckland of current and past LGBT+ NZDF personnel as part of Pride 25.