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Homophobic threats force Melbourne’s Shrine to cancel rainbow tribute to gay Diggers

Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance as it would have looked if the tribute had gone ahead as planned. Photo: Shrine
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Plans to light up Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance in rainbow colours have been abandoned after staff were subjected to “hateful” threats and abuse.

The display was intended to commemorate LGBTQI people in service as part of the upcoming exhibition Defending with Pride, which chronicles stories of denial and exclusion, along with recognition and inclusion.

The Shrine of Remembrance organisation announced on Saturday afternoon that while the exhibition and Last Post service scheduled for Sunday would go ahead, the lighting of its colonnades would not.

“As a peaceful place of remembrance, we seek to provide a safe and inclusive place for all,” a statement shared on social media said.

“Over several days, our staff have received and been subject to abuse, and in some cases, threats.

“We have seen something of what members of the LGBTIQ+ community experience every day. It is hateful.”

In the interests of minimising harm, the Shrine sought guidance from partners and others including veteran associations, the Victorian government, and representatives of the LGBTQI veteran community.

‘Society’s values change’

The organisation noted in the statement that, 50 years ago, creating a memorial to women’s service was controversial and opposed by many, as was the introduction of an annual service commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“A decade ago, conversations around veteran suicide were taboo, yet today it is the subject of a Royal Commission,” the statement said.

“Society’s values change, and the Shrine is a participant in that change and will continue its efforts to honour the service and sacrifice of all who have served Australia.”

The Shrine’s Pride exhibition officially runs from August until July 2023.