19 November, 2021
The annual award recognises New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel who have made a positive contribution to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Commander Leslie, as Head of Trade for the Royal New Zealand Navy Dive Team, impressed the judges with his commitment to improving the culture and gender diversity amongst the RNZN Diving Trade.
He instigated a programme for divers built around Te Ao Māori that aims to grow a positive, inclusive and high performing culture for divers. One that values whanaungatanga (the building of relationships), ako (learning) and growing te reo Māori capability and connection through creating diving specific haka, waiata and karakia.
Commander Leslie has also made efforts to increase gender diversity within the Navy divers. He championed a mentoring programme for women interested in military diving, facilitated the commissioning of an academic study to support female recruitment and selection strategies. He also established diving representation on the Gender Advisory Board, and initiated projects aimed at delivering more gender appropriate diving equipment and systems utilising technology and lightweight composite solutions.
His leadership and advocacy is already achieving results with the last RNZN Defence Diver Couse (graduating in June 2020) passing three female students, which was 50 per cent of the course. Through his mentorship programme, the Navy has received several expressions of interest from women across the NZDF wanting to undertake the next professional diver transfer course.
Captain David Turner nominated Commander Leslie, and said that there was no doubt that he had stepped into this rangatira space over the past two years.
“He has been the one who has had the vision to embrace change to lead the trade to a better place. Commander Leslie will continue to lead from the front and build on all that has been achieved thus far. I can think of no more deserving recipient for the Peter Rule Memorial Award.”
Commander Leslie has been a member of the Navy since 1986, qualifying as a Navy Diver soon after joining. Since then, diving, explosive ordnance disposal and mine clearance has been the bulk of his Navy career.
In 2001 he was the RNZN Exchange Officer at the Royal Malaysian Diving Center, Malaysia, where he commissioned the first Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) deep diving tender and introduced the 100M deep diving capability to Malaysia, receiving the Honorary Order of Chivalry to the Royal Malaysian and Armed Forces and Malaysian People by the King of Malaysia for his efforts.
He also held the role of Officer In Charge of Mine Counter Measures for the RNZN, where he introduced into service the first Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (REMUS) before deploying to Lebanon as the Senior National Officer for Operation Lima in Southern Lebanon to conduct Battle Area Clearance for the United Nations. During his time as Commanding Officer of the RNZN Operational Diving Team he led various Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response and Explosive Remnant of War Disposal Operations.
Commander Leslie said he was pleased to accept the award, but said the success was not his own.
“Whilst I may have set the tone and conditions for a positive diversity and inclusion culture, the success can be attributed to all the personnel within the RNZN Diving Trade who have fully embraced the programmes and initiatives and turned them into positive action.”
The Squadron Leader Peter Rule Memorial Award for Inclusion was launched in 2019 in honour of a gay pilot whose distinguished 20-year career was ended in 1975 because of his sexuality.