The solemn shrine, a striking symbol honoring the sacrifice of everyone who has served, was set to be bathed in rainbow light as a celebration of LGBTIQ+ personnel in the armed forces.
But plans for the colorful display on Sunday have now been canceled after staff received “sustained abuse and threats”.
“If we’d served they would have been celebrating us, instead they’re condemning us because of our sexuality,” Shrine CEO Dean Lee told 9News in a statement.
“We have seen something of what members of the LGBTIQ+ community experience every day. It is hateful.
“In the interests of minimizing harm, we have given this matter careful consideration.”
Yvonne Sillett of the Discharged LGBTQIA+ Veterans Association said she was “shattered” by the decision.
“It meant so much to me as a gay veteran but I think for the whole community, it’s something which no war memorial has ever done,” she told 9News.
The colorful display would have coincided with a special last post service at dusk and the opening of a new exhibit Defending with Pridewhich includes stories from past members like Yvonne Sillet.
She was discharged in 1988 after what she says was a witch hunt because of her sexuality.
“I was angry for many, many years so the rainbow lighting tomorrow night was going to be, finally the world can see, or Melbourne can see, we did have in out military members from the LGBTQI community,” Yvonne said.
The ban on gay and lesbian personnel was only lifted in 1992 by the Keating Government but 30 years on, these lights would have been a first at any war memorial around the country.
“We haven’t been recognised. Recognition for us has been absent, or really underrepresented,” Yvonne said.
The special last post service will still go ahead, with the Pride flag set to be raised during the service – the first time a rainbow flag will ever have been raised at the Shrine.
And Monday’s exhibition will also open as planned.