Calling all volunteers, allies and supporters! Join our proud brothers and sisters of the NZ Defence Force OverWatch as they march beside us in next year’s Auckland Pride Parade.
There’s something about the men and women in uniforms that just catches your attention. Beyond cheeky fantasies, they inspire a lot of things in all of us. This is specially true in the context of the rainbow community. In last year’s Pride Parade, this is just exactly what happened.
Ten uniformed members of the New Zealand Defence Force and around 15 civilian members of OverWatch, the NZDF networking and support group, and their allies were joined by 2 members of the Australian Defence Force as they marched down Ponsonby Road proudly showing their support for the rainbow community.
OverWatch is the NZDF networking and support group for the LGBTI community within their ranks and outside. They are the initiative that saw the NZ Defence Force win both the Diversity Award and the Supreme Award at this year’s ANZ EEO Trust Diversity Awards.
When OverWatch marched last year, they inspired a feeling of pride in the people who participated. “For many of those uniformed members of the Defence Force, being able to wear their service dress was an important aspect to them. There was a strong sense of pride in representing both their Service and the NZ Defence Force in such a public forum,” says Chief Petty Officer Master At Arms Bradley Harris (Harry), the Navy Representative on the OverWatch Management Group. He adds, “Our civilian members were proud to walk alongside their uniformed colleagues and those friends, allies and ex-service people who walked with us.”
They inspired the people around them as well. “The support of the crowd on the day, of the media that lead up to and followed the parade, and of the many peers, managers, commanders and leaders throughout the organisation all helped to create a real sense of occasion and pride within those who marched,” says Harry.
They inspire compassion and support as one of Harry’s story shows. “One leader emailed a member stating that he would bring his young daughter to lend support from the sidelines and show her what diversity at his workplace is all about, and what it means to be accepting of all people.”
Kudos to the man at the helm for his inspiring leadership. Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, the Chief of Defence Force publicly supported the Pride Parade participants from NZDF and OverWatch. When a member of the public wrote to express his concern at serving members of the Defence Force being allowed to march as part of pride, he wrote back to say:
As Chief of Defence Force I granted permission for members of the New Zealand Defence Force marching as part of the parade to wear their uniform. The uniform Defence Force members wear reflects a commitment they have made to serve their country. I have no doubt that during the parade they wore their uniform with pride and the community were able to acknowledge their service.
The New Zealand Defence Force is an equal opportunity employer that values the diversity of its workforce. We do not discriminate against any of our Regular Force, Reserve Force, or civilian members based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
So if you want to be part of this inspiring group, whether you are past or present Regular, Reserve or civilian NZDF staff or one of their support allies, join the NZDF OverWatch in the Pride Parade this coming February!
Article | Louis Bretana
Photo | Overwatch at the Auckland Pride Parade 2013 by Yvonne Shearer