9 October 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will launch tonight a new category for its Person of the Year Awards, to celebrate the individual who has most positively influenced the inclusive culture of the NZDF.
The new award will be called the Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Trophy, after Squadron Leader Peter Rule, who had a distinguished 20-year career in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) from 1955-75. His service included two years in Antarctica, where he survived a much-publicised plane crash, and in the 1960s he was seconded to work for the United Nations in South Korea and Syria.
In South Korea, Squadron Leader Rule was observed fraternising too closely with another man and, because homosexual people were banned from serving in the military at that time, his career was ended.
After his death by suicide in 1987, the Peter Rule Foundation was established from his estate to benefit gay New Zealanders.
Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark, Chief of the Air Force, said the new Person of the Year category had come about through the generosity of the Peter Rule Foundation and Squadron Leader Rule’s family.
“We are humbled the Peter Rule Foundation and Rule family have so generously agreed to lend Peter’s name to the NZDF’s important new award,” Air Vice-Marshal Clark said.
“The unjust end to Peter’s RNZAF career is an inspiration for our ongoing efforts to be an organisation all talented New Zealanders want to join – no matter how similar or different they are to the next person.”
“Having a workforce of people with diverse skills, ideas and experiences is essential for the NZDF’s success in a complex world that demands from us agility, innovation and connection,” Air Vice-Marshal Clark said.
“While The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies named the NZDF ‘the world’s most inclusive military’ in 2014, we remain focused on increasing our workforce diversity and ensuring all our people feel welcome, safe and respected.”
The Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Trophy, for actions that have influenced positively the inclusive culture of the NZDF, will be launched at the opening of an exhibition on Squadron Leader Rule’s life at the Air Force Museum at 5.30pm today.
The exhibition – A Rainbow Legacy: the Squadron Leader Peter Rule Story – is part of the NZDF’s PRIDE25 events calendar to celebrate 25 years since the ban was lifted on openly gay people serving.
Note to editors:
Each year since 2009, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has celebrated the service person or civilian who epitomises most the NZDF’s values (Courage, Commitment, Comradeship, and Integrity), naming that person the NZDF Person of the Year.
In 2019 the NZDF Person of the Year Awards will be announced on Monday, 2 December, at an event in Auckland being hosted this year by the Royal New Zealand Navy. This will include the naming of the inaugural winner of the Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Trophy for actions that have positively influenced the inclusive culture of the NZDF. The recipient of the Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Trophy will be eligible for consideration towards the overall NZDF Person of the Year Award.