Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance cancels Pride lights

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance has called off plans to illuminate the war memorial in the colours of the Pride flag.

The plan to light up the building was to coincide with the opening of an exhibition inside the Shrine which celebrates the service of LGBTIQA+ service personnel. However due to threats of violence and abusive telephone calls the plan has now been called off.

Chief Executive Dean Lee confirmed the exhibition would stull proceed but the light display would not.

“Over several days, our staff have received — and been subject to — sustained abuse and, in some cases, threats,” he said in a statement.

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

“In the interests of minimising harm, we have given this matter careful consideration and sought the guidance of the Shrine’s partners and friends, including veteran associations, representatives of the LGBTIQ+ veteran community and the Victorian government,” Lee said.

A large protest had been planned for Sunday afternoon, which prompted officials to pull the plug on the plan.

Criticism of the plan to illuminate the building has come conservative commentators including former Liberal candidate Katherine Deves who said the six colours of the Pride flag represented a divisive political ideology.

“The community deserves to know which fringe activists are behind this sign of disrespect.” Deves posted to her social media account.

Talkback host Neil Mitchell also condemned the plan, describing it as treating the memorial as a “gay billboard”.

“No disrespect to the gay community but the rainbow flag can be divisive,” Mitchell said. “If it stood simply for respect for the community and decency and tolerance – no problem, no problem at all, but it stands for more. It’s sort of symbolic for debates around gender identity and how that’s managed., and it’s also used by the more militant parts of the gay community.”

“It’s not the role of the Shrine to be leading that debate, the Shrine should be above politics and political debate.” Mitchell said.

The decision to cancel the light display has been welcomed by Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith. The opposition MP took to Twitter to share his thoughts saying the sexuality of soldiers should never be highlighted.

“The Shrine should never be used for woke virtue signalling. This is a sensible decision because the Shrine should only ever be about one thing – remembering the fallen & those who served Australia in war – regardless of race, sexuality, religion etc.” Smith said.  Earlier in the week Smith told Sky News that the plan to light up the shrine would be offensive to many veterans.

The exhibition is scheduled to run for 12 months and is the first of its kind for an Australian war memorial. It reveals the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in service.

Drawing on historical research, community consultation and collections from the Australian Queer Archives, this immersive exhibition charts a journey from denial and exclusion to recognition and inclusion. At its centerpiece are the personal stories and reflections of veterans and current serving ADF personnel.

OIP Staff

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