Page 4126 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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As well as taking this time to honour all our veterans, and, of course, all the members of the armed forces who are still serving, I would like to give some specific consideration right now to those veterans who are same-sex attracted or transgender. There are a couple who come to mind, such as Kate McGregor and Bridget Clinch, who was born Matthew Clinch. Back in 2010, Captain Clinch said he wanted to become a woman. The Army told him he was not the first. There have been others before him, and there will be others in the future, but back then the Army’s policy stated:

Consistent with the current ADF medical and recruiting policy, a person undergoing or contemplating gender reassignment cannot be considered suitable for service in the ADF because of the need for ongoing treatment and/or the presence of a psychiatric disorder.

Captain Clinch stood firm and she is still in the Army. She fought the system and, in the end, because of her, the transgender policy as it was is gone. She and her partner now have three children. However, in order to be legally recognised as a woman, she will need to divorce her partner, despite them staying together. As we know, that is not an isolated story.

My point is that on top of dealing with the inevitable issues that arise from the service, those who are in the Defence Force who are transgender face additional hurdles, discrimination and exclusion. Until we have equal marriage, this will not go away. We have an obligation to make sure that these people are supported and do not face discrimination or exclusion, and an obligation to ensure that their rights as citizens are upheld.

Going back to Captain Clinch, she has remained active and was the first transgender candidate for the veterans party in 2016 in Brisbane. At the time, the veterans party issued a statement that said:

The Veterans Party is committed to acknowledging the human rights and diversity of everyone in the community and the fact that every Australian has the right to live a life free of harassment.

Many veterans still contribute to our society through volunteering and fundraising for organisations such as Legacy and Soldier On, and their contributions help to ensure that we remember the significant contributions they have made for our country. And, of course, they contribute not just through specifically veterans organisations; veterans are part of our community as a whole. Given this, we have to ensure that our veterans are not left behind.

Because post-traumatic stress can have a significant impact on the ability to participate in society, maintain healthy relationships and maintain active employment, veterans are unfortunately at a greater risk than others of ending up on the street, homeless. A significant number find themselves in hospital as a result of their chronic mental health conditions and/or their physical injuries. And, as I said, some have ended up homeless. I note that today is International Day of Peace. It is a timely day to discuss the role of veterans. The theme from the United Nations is “Together for peace: respect safety and dignity for all”.

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