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Defending with Pride Voices: Phil

Shrine of Remembrance

Release Date: 09/28/2022

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More Episodes

Phil Neil, a former Leading Aircraftman with the RAAF, was one of the five members of the Gay Ex-Services Association (GESA) who tried to unsuccessfully lay a wreath at the Shrine of Remembrance on ANZAC Day in 1982.

GESA formed after inflammatory and homophobic comments were made in the media about gay service people by then RSL president, Bruce Ruxton.

On a cold and rainy 25th of April, 1982, Phil Neil, Mike Jarmyn, Terry Yates and two other gay ex-servicemen walked the steps of the Shrine to try and lay a wreath in the name of their “fallen gay and lesbian brothers and sisters”, who had always been a part of the Australian defence forces. On that day, they were turned away.

After the passing in 2018 of GESA founding member Max Campbell, a former RAAF Warrant Officer, it was thought that there were no surviving members of the association. As luck would have it, Phil Neil was found alive and well living in regional Victoria during the making of ‘The Power of the Wreath’, one of the podcast episodes that accompanies the Shrine’s groundbreaking new exhibition, Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service (August 2022 – July 2023).

In our age of open service, Phil is a pioneer for the LGBTIQ+ ADF members and community of today. As you’ll hear, he’s waited a long time to tell his story for the first time. In this extended interview, he sheds more light on the 1982 wreath-laying incident, his motives for being part of it and much more. It’s an inspiring story of courage and compassion.

Phil Neil was interviewed by award-winning podcast maker, Megan Spencer. You can also hear him speak in the special two-part podcast she made for the Shrine, Defending with Pride: Voices – The Power of the Wreath.

Credits 

This extended interview with Phil Neil, a former Leading Aircraftman with the RAAF, is part of the podcast series Defending with Pride: Voices. The audio series accompanies the Shrine’s exhibition, Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service (August 2022 – July 2023)

Parental guidance recommended:

This audio program contains adult themes, mild coarse language and sexual references. If this program raises any issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For additional support services, see also the list below.

Wreath-laying at the Shrine:

We welcome all members of our community to lay wreaths or other floral offerings at any of the many memorials at the Shrine. The Shrine hosts more than 150 official commemorative services each year to remember the service of Australian men and women, particularly Victorians, and we welcome our community to attend and participate. To find out more about remembrance services, or to apply to hold your own, visit this link. 

Speakers:

Phil Neil (former Leading Aircraftman, RAAF)

Interviewer/Producer/Sound: Megan Spencer 

Music:

Original “Kissed” music: Philip Brophy

Special thanks:

To former Phil Neil for generously sharing his insights and lived experience for this podcast and to Nick Henderson from the Australian Queer Archives.

Thank you also to the Shrine team: Sue Burgess, Laura Thomas and Kate Spinks, curator of Defending with Pride.

Support:

If this podcast raises any issues for you, support is available from the following services:

  • QLife Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for LGBTI people. Phone: 1800 184 527
  • Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service provides policy and community information to gay, lesbian and bisexual, transgender, intersex and non-binary serving and ex-serving members of Defence and their families.
  • Discharged LGBTI Veterans' Association (DVLA) A support and advocacy association for Australian Defence Force personnel, their family and their friends who were adversely impacted by Defence's historic anti-LGBTI policies. Phone 0400 124 213.
  • Open Arms Free and confidential, 24/7 national counselling service for Australian veterans and their families, provided through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Phone: 1800 011 046
  • Lifeline  Suicide and crisis support. Phone: 13 11 14

Read:

 

Visit:

Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service exhibition at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, August 2022 until July 2023.

Victorian Pride Centre 

Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Shrine of Remembrance.

Episode duration:

36:09