Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance cancels rainbow light plan, citing threats and abuse

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7/29/22

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance has cancelled plans to illuminate the site in rainbow colours, citing “sustained abuse” and threats directed at its staff. The rainbow plan for Sunday night was set to coincide with the opening of a new exhibition inside the Shrine, called Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service. It is an exhibition that charts the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in Australia’s armed forces. The exhibition and a Last Post service are still going ahead from Sunday, however, Shrine of Remembrance chief executive Dean Lee confirmed the rainbow lighting 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.” Some social media activity had suggested there could be a protest against the lights taking place on Sunday afternoon. The Shrine was the site of violent scenes in September, when anti-lockdown protesters were involved in a tense stand-off with police. “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,” Mr Lee said. “The stories we seek to tell. The service we seek to honour. These will be told. The brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and queer people in the armed forces will be honoured.” The move to light up the Shrine attracted some backlash from conservative commentators, who expressed concern at the “politicisation” of the site. Some veterans were also opposed to the move. Mr Lee pointed to the recent illumination of the building to remember assassinated former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe when defending the decision during the week. It has also been lit up in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and to remember the police officers killed in the 2020 Eastern Freeway crash tragedy.

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