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Defending with Pride Voices: Phil

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.


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. 


Phil Neil (former Leading Aircraftman, RAAF)

Interviewer/Producer/Sound: Megan Spencer 


Original “Kissed” music: Philip Brophy


Jay Watchorn (City Rhythm Magazine)

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.


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


Pride in Defence: The Australian Military and LGBTI Service since 1945 (2020), Melbourne University Press and Serving in Silence? Australian LGBT servicemen and women (2018), New South Books. 

Ben Winsor’s ‘The Secret History of Gay Diggers’ essay for SBS here 


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

Victorian Pride Centre 


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:



MEGAN SPENCER: Parental Guidance is recommended for this podcast. It contains adult themes, sexual references and mild course language. The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Shrine of Remembrance. If this interview raises any issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Welcome to this podcast exploring all facets of our wartime history. The Shrine of Remembrance acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians of the land on which we honour Australian service people and we pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. Hello, my name is Megan Spencer, and this is an extended interview with Phil Neil, one of the speakers in the Power of the Wreath, the special two part podcast for the Shrine that explores the history of LGBTQI+ military service in the Australian Defence Force. It accompanies the Shrine's exhibition Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service. Phil Neil was a member of GESA, the Gay Ex-services Association and one of the five gay ex-servicemen who in 1982 tried unsuccessfully to lay a wreath at the Shrine on ANZAC Day to honour gay and lesbian service people. It was thought that there were no surviving members of GESA, but during the making of that podcast, Phil Neil was found. He's now approaching 70. And he's been waiting a long time to tell his story.

MEGAN SPENCER: Parental Guidance is recommended for this podcast. It contains adult themes, sexual references and mild course language. The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the shrine of remembrance. If this interview raises any issues for you, please call lifeline on one three double 114 Welcome to this podcast exploring all facets of our wartime history. The Shrine of remembrance acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians of the land on which we honour Australian service people and we pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. Hello, my name is Megan Spencer. And this is an extended interview with Phil Neal, one of the speakers in the power of the Wraith the special two-part podcast for the shrine that explores the history of LGBTQI plus military service in the Australian Defence Force. It accompanies the Shrine’s exhibition defending with pride stories of LGBTQ plus service. Phil Neal was a member of gay Sir the gay X Services Association and one of the five gay ex-servicemen who in 1982 tried unsuccessfully to lay a wreath at the shrine on ANZAC Day to honour gay and lesbian service people. It was thought that there were no surviving members of gazer, but during the making of that podcast, Phil Neal was found. He's now approaching 70, and he's been waiting a long time to tell his story.

PHIL NEIL: It might have taken 30 years, but something I think positive came out of that wreath laying in '82.

MEGAN SPENCER: Like his GESA comrades, Phil was in the Air Force, becoming a leading aircraftman. He came from a defence family with both his father and grandfather serving in the army during World War One and Two respectively, with his mum, a World War Two volunteer and in the essential services. Born in Oakley in 1953, Phil enlisted in the Air Force shortly before his 18th birthday, serving for three years between 1971 to 74 and posting within Australia. Phil did his basic training at RAAF base Edinburgh in South Australia, his corp training at RAAF base Wagga, in New South Wales, specialising in catering. He was then posted to RAAF base Point Cook in Victoria. Did you know you were gay before you joined the Air Force? And the follow on question from that is how were you treated when you were there?

PHIL NEIL: Yeah, I knew I was, I had a fairly good idea when I was about 12 that there was something different about me. And I didn't have that, you know, I tried, did all the right things. Dating the girls, the whole box and dice because being brought up in a religious household, it was expected that you get the girl, get married, and all that sort of stuff. But I think at the age of 12, I thought 'No, this is no right'. And I think, to another extent is why I joined was to get away from the family situation. So I could actually discover who I was in work on there. It wasn't as easy as it was what I was thought it was going to be. And it should have put me back a fair bit because at that stage, we're talking about '70, '71, '72, it was still a crime to be gay, you could be thrown out of the services. You have to be very careful as to what you could say, what you could do. And I just found that very, very, I think I found that more difficult to cope with than when I was living at home.

MEGAN SPENCER: Well, that's my next question. I take it that you had to hide, well you've just said you had to really be careful and hide your identity. Yeah, what kind of an effect did that have on you as a service person at that time, I suppose not being able to serve openly?

PHIL NEIL: It was very difficult because you want to do what you can for your country. You want to be give them your best, but you couldn't give them your best. Because you couldn't be you. You couldn't be natural and be yourself. And if you can't be natural and be yourself, you can't help anybody else. I couldn't be I just couldn't do what I wanted to do. I just couldn't feel comfortable enough to actually be able to give my best or doing everything because I was scared at some stage, somebody would say something or find something and then I'd be in all sorts of dead doo.

MEGAN SPENCER: Did you at that time know anybody else who was gay in the Air Force, or any other service who was found out and was ejected?

PHIL NEIL: No, I didn't. I knew a couple in there. But again, everybody was very, very, very, very secretive. And if you met or talked, you'd never met on base, you'd met off base and you meet somewhere else, where you could talk. You'd go to a pub somewhere like that and talk, but you could never be seen talking in your company, because if they found out one person was, or suspected one person was, everybody that was attached to them, it was automatically thought that they were gay as well, so it was very difficult. It was just very, very difficult time to actually, to be you or to be comfortable in your own skin.

MEGAN SPENCER: Did you enjoy being in the Air Force? Were there aspects of it other than having to hide that, which would be very, you know, difficult and a burden. But were there, did you actually enjoy being a service person?

PHIL NEIL: Oh, yes. Yes, I did. I enjoyed the camaraderie, learning things. I've always thought that, even though it's a hell of a long time since I've been out, I always think it was something that was almost necessary for me to do, it just gave me a bit more grounding in my life that became afterwards. It just give me that sort of an idea of, if I can handle this, I can handle anything. I did enjoy the time, I did enjoy the camaraderie, I did enjoy to learn. I did enjoy the feelings as I was actually being part of Australia and part of the helping Australia out and being just a serviceman and feeling proud of my country.

MEGAN SPENCER: That's beautiful, Phil. Thank you for sharing that with me. I, I get that real sense from you in the way you're talking about that side of service. Okay, let's move on now to GESA, the Gay Ex-services Association and the wreath laying in 1982. So Phil, how old were you in 1982?


MEGAN SPENCER: And how did you come to be part of the 1982 wreath laying service?

PHIL NEIL: Through I suppose just going out and about and meeting people. I didn't come out till I was 27. So it was very difficult at that stage because I bottled everything up. I finally met people. And finally, just on meeting people at pubs. And we worked it out to all five of us who were part of GESA, were all ex-Air Force, and we just discovered, found out just talking about our different experiences, and like I'm talking to you now just having back at that stage, everybody had to be so underground, and just talking to people and saying, 'Hey, this is not right'. We know that a lot of people were in the Armed Services stage at that stage. (inaudible) Do we need to say 'Well, hey, there were people there, there were gay and lesbian serving the country who had died serving the country, for the love of their country', and why not have some sort of a recognition to say, 'Well, yes, they were. We were. We helped, they helped, they've passed away or they're in the same situation as us where they just don't feel comfortable to say anything'. That's sort of where it kicked off, even if it lasted just for that one day and achieved nothing but say we got some sort of recognition or some sort of (inaudible)  'Hey these people exist. Still exist. And let's do something about it'.

PHIL NEIL: It was mates, meeting in a pub over a beer, talking about experiences, and that's where the five of us got together and said, 'Well, we've got to do something about this'. It got us upset but it got us angry as well, because when you hear like people like, we won't mention that person,  his story is saying 'No, there weren't any gay people in the ADF. And if we found out or just thought they were, they would be the people who'd be put up the front if there was a battle on'.

MEGAN SPENCER: So you're talking about Bruce Ruxton? I'll say his name.

PHIL NEIL: I thought 'No sorry, mate. You're not gonna get away with that'.  What you're telling me is you'd rather see a gay person killed than actually come out and admit that they were gay to their country. And that's what still makes me angry to this day, Megan, it still make me angry.

MEGAN SPENCER: Phil, when we spoke a few days ago, you said to me that there was a hell of a lot of organisation that went into that 1982 wreath laying attempt. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

PHIL NEIL: Yeah, we were just trying to find out, sort of being in touch with the Shrine and finding out what we could actually do. to stay within the rules of the wreath laying and how things can be done on Anzac Day. We kept on getting- people either wouldn't return our calls or made it difficult for us to do anything at all. We just kept patience and patience and patience and keep on trying and prodding till we got somebody that said, 'Well, if you're going to do this, this is the only way to do it'. Like they said to us 'If you're going to do it, you need to just walk up at the side of the Shrine and place the wreath, and walk off as if nobody had known that we were going to be there'. And we said 'No, what's the point of doing that? If people don't-' because it's just another reason say, 'Well, who was that and what's the point of them doing it?' So we kept on fighting and fighting. And they said, 'Well, if you do such and such, like we walk up the full length of the up to the Shrine', they said, 'If you do that your wreath will be taken off you, will be destroyed, straightaway destroyed. And nothing else will be said about it'. Then news programmes heard about it and we got a bit of publicity through radio station and things like that beforehand.

MEGAN SPENCER: What do you recall about doing the interview on the radio in which Bruce Ruxton was present?

PHIL NEIL: Bruce was very angry from the moment he got on the programme to the moment he got off the programme. He wouldn't listen to reason, he wouldn't talk about anything. It was what he said was true. And right. And what I was saying was just a lot of lies, because and how would I know and I thought, Well, the reason I know Bruce, is because I was there. I was part of the ADF in the 70s when it was illegal to be gay, it was illegal to be anybody apart from what Bruce thought they should be. And I think that was the thing that got me.  I kept my voice very calm. He got angry., raised his voice. And I think we won a little bit of sympathy, because he screamed, and we didn't.

MEGAN SPENCER: This is a podcast for the Shrine of Remembrance. My name is Megan Spencer, and you're listening to an extended interview with Phil Neil. On Anzac Day in 1982, Phil was one of five Gay Ex-Service Association members who tried to lay a wreath at the Shrine only to be turned away by then RSL president, Bruce Ruxton, and others. So, Phil, just going back to the day itself again now, do you remember what it was like? Do you have memories of it? And I'm also interested in the feeling around it,  your experience? I mean, it sounds quite intimidating...

PHIL NEIL: Probably a couple of hours beforehand, and we were, putting it basically, we were scared shitless. We didn't know how far we'd get, we didn't whether we could go through with it. We didn't know how far we'd get before where we were maybe arrested, we really didn't know what to expect. All the way through, right up until even the walk up to the Shrine itself. I don't think I've ever been so scared and intimidated in my life as I was that day. And we all said afterwards that it was the most exhilarating experience, but it was the most frightening experience. To know we were maybe helping somebody that was watching it or maybe doing something and maybe not doing anything at all. But at the end of it, we felt as if we achieved, we achieved what we were out to do. And that was just to lay a wreath for the gay and lesbians who had passed away during war. And we're going right back World War One beforehand. There's always been gay and lesbian people around forever. They've always been serving their country. They've always been proud of their country. And we wanted to show respect for those people.

MEGAN SPENCER: Phil, did you get a sense that your family, your community, your LGBTQI family, as you were walking up the steps, did you have a sense that you know you were doing it for them? You could feel that?

PHIL NEIL: Yeah, I think we all felt as if, when we going out there, we kept on saying, 'Well hey, this is not only for us, it's for others, it's for other people'.  When I told my parents that I was doing it, they were shocked, but they were proud that I was actually standing up for something that I believed in and something that would help other people. And that I wasn't scared to say what I felt. It was a very strong feeling to all five of us that we needed to do something, we achieved something. And we felt as if there was other people, we felt as if there wasn't just five of us walking, we felt that there was a whole group with us. They weren't there with us physically with us, but they were there with us, thinking about us, because we'd spoken to a lot of people beforehand. Even non ADF, who said 'Go for it, do what you feel you have to do'. And that's what we did.

MEGAN SPENCER: That's absolutely beautiful. I've got tears. It's a very moving, that's amazing. That's truly amazing.

PHIL NEIL: It was something that- as I say, we just felt as if it wasn't just five guys walking up with a wreath to the Shrine, to the most sacred price in Victoria, to do something that we felt needed to be done then. And hopefully, some people may have listened, who were thinking about joining the services or were currently in the services and felt well, 'Hey, we're not alone. There's other people out there who feel exactly the same as we feel'.

MEGAN SPENCER: So it was about making things visible?

PHIL NEIL: Yeah, exactly. It was something that went on radio, it was filmed, there was photos, things like that, that are still relevant today. And I think to an extent even more relevant than they were in '82.

MEGAN SPENCER: In what way do you think Phil?

PHIL NEIL: I think '82, you know,  we're talking 40 years ago. If you did something like that now, nobody would even look. But if you did it 40 years ago, when it was still illegal to be gay or lesbian - you could be put into jail or arrested and things like that. And you're actually come out openly and say, 'Hey, we're gay. We served in the Forces. We have the same rights as everybody else to be there, to be laying a wreath'. And we're saying, 'Well, we're here. If you don't like us, I'm sorry, but we're not going away. And there'll be more people who will follow on from us'.

MEGAN SPENCER: It's very brave, very brave.

PHIL NEIL: I think sometimes we wonder whether it was brave or sheer stupidity. You wonder, 'Why the hell did I do that?' But in the long run you think 'Well, I did it because I had to. Not because I wanted to, but I had to'. And I think that's, I think that's a big thing is people saying, 'I'd like to do that. I want to do that. But I can't'. We said, 'I want to, I have to, and I will'.

MEGAN SPENCER: So Phil, um, when I spoke to you the other day again, another question from that. You said that it was quite soul destroying afterwards. So my question is, yeah, how did it feel? Well, first of all, when you were up, and you were rejected by Bruce Ruxton, what what was that like for you?

PHIL NEIL: It was, we got up there and to put it basically, we were made to feel like shit. As if, 'What the hell are you doing here? We told you not to come. You've disobeyed a direct order from me' from Bruce Ruxton. And I'm thinking 'Well. You told us in one way we could do it, but only under the rules you say we could do it, whichwould have achieved nothing and nobody would have known we had done it'. We did that. We came away absolutely soul destroyed because it was firstly, the wreath was taken off us and thrown on the ground. And we walked away from that thinking 'What have we done? Have we achieved anything?' And we just went away, we were so beaten down to say, 'Well, why did you bother when you knew this was going to happen?' You'd say, 'Look, I know what's gonna happen. And it happened. And you go, why did I bother? What has it achieved? What has it done for me? What's it done for other people?' And it just got to this stage, you think, 'Well, why? Why do I continue? Why do I bother? If all I'm going to do is get beaten down like that'. But it took us quite a while to sort of sit there and work out what part we had done, why we had done it, what backlash we'd have and what positives, what negatives will come out of it. I think we're just went 'Hey, we've done it. Now we'll see what happens from there or we'll keep going'. But we got to the stage where we became so downhearted that we just gave up, because we thought 'We're not achieving anything'.  And unfortunately, we gave up. People moved off and moved into state. And as a group, we didn't keep going, which I regret. But I think what we did at that stage, we did, and 40 years on, it still feels like it's having some sort of an impact.

MEGAN SPENCER: So looking back at it, Phil, do you think that it did make a difference? Looking back at it now forty years on

PHIL NEIL: Yes, I think it did make a difference. I know it's 40 years on but I think people, whether it was the RSL or people in hierarchy in the ADF looked and said 'Well hey, these guys have got a point. There are people here. There are people serving the country'. You can't say that there aren't, that everybody in the world is exactly the same. It would be a very boring world if they were and I feel as if that may have planted a seed in somebody's mind who's now part of maybe the new RSL. People these days have a bit more of an idea that the RSL are much younger. They're moving on, starting to realise, moving on with a times, that people are individuals and are willing to serve and want to serve their country. Doesn't matter what they do in their bedrooms.

MEGAN SPENCER: Do you think looking back, feel that that moment at the Shrine when you tried to lay that first wreath, that it has something to do with the lifting like it, it contributed towards the change that helped make the decision to lift the ban against LGB service back in 1992?

PHIL NEIL: Deep down I'm hoping so. I think maybe there could have been just a little bit of something there that said, in the back of people's mind saying 'Hey, I remember something back, way back in '82 or in the early '80s where somebody said something'. I'm not saying that we had a huge thing to do with it, I think we might have had maybe a little very, very small seed that has grown to help towards or hadn't. I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet. But I think well, maybe we might have had just a little bit to do with it. If we did, I'm very, very proud of what we did. If we didn't, I'm still proud of what we did.

MEGAN SPENCER: And Phil, what was your reaction when the Keating government did overturn that ban in 1992? Did you ever think you would see that day?

PHIL NEIL: For me, it was almost as life-changing as marriage equality. I know, which is a huge thing to say. But back then when you're looking at people who actually can then say, 'Well, I can now openly serve my country, to the best of my ability and feel comfortable doing the job that I'm doing'. I might be leading 40 or 50 men who are then I can now say, 'Well, hey, this is me. I'm still the same person I was. But now I can be that person'. If they say well 'Don't ask, don't tell', well no, you are who you are, as long as you do your job, to the best of your ability and you are serving your country to the best of your ability. I don't care who the hell you sleep with. I know it's probably blunt to say but I don't care. And neither should anybody else care.

MEGAN SPENCER: Phil how do you feel about the Shrine these days? Have you been back since that time that you tried to lay the wreath?

PHIL NEIL: I've been back a couple of times. Unfortunately, it's a bit painful for me to go back there because I still have this feeling that somebody's gonna touch me on the shoulders and say 'Get out'. Which is a shocking thing to say, but I still got that feeling. I try to be positive on it but it's in the back of my mind. And maybe I'll go back one day, maybe one day I'll be able to go back and say 'Hey, maybe things are changing' and maybe with this podcasta few more people will hear what's going on, make up their own minds and say 'Well hey, let's do something more about it'. I've got friends who will have nothing to do with the RSL because of the way they were treated back in the '70s, '80s, '90s because of their sexual orientation. They won't even join the RSL.

MEGAN SPENCER: Did you join the RSL yourself?

PHIL NEIL: Yes I'm a member of the RSL

MEGAN SPENCER: Okay, and have you marched in the Anzac day marches?

PHIL NEIL: I have done, yes. I moved up from Melbourne to Mildura six years ago and I go to the dawn service. I haven't done the marches because  healthwise I haven't been able to but I go to the dawn service and everything and I gotta go to the RSL and talk to people and have a yack,  see what's going on. I enjoy catching up with people. You know, because let's face it, I'm about to hit 70, I'm one of the oldies in the RSL, but yeah I'm a member of the RSL. I'm pleased I joined, I think it was necessary for me to join because anybody who's a member of the RSL has a story that somebody else is wanting to learn, to listen to or walk into and you can learn something from them and they'll learn something from you.

MEGAN SPENCER: And it sounds like you've been accepted and welcomed into the RSL these days?

PHIL NEIL: Yeah, I must admit I didn't join the RSL till I came up here. Because at that stage, I didn't feel comfortable joining down there, but I thought I'd come up. I thought no, when I come up here it was a whole new change of life, change of everything. And I thought, well, 'hey, join the RSL. Get out there. Do something and talk to people and find out stories about them and their life in the ADF and your life. And see if  knew anybody, anybody who they worked with, they served with who was gay, any stories'. It's always very interesting to talk to people and see how long they were in where they went to and their life stories. It's quite an amazing. I think ADF are a breed of their own.

MEGAN SPENCER: And have you found that healing, Phil, going back into that environment? Because it sounds to me as if you really loved your time in the service and well, you valued it very much and still do.

PHIL NEIL: I don't know if I loved it, I valued it. I think it was a good learning curve. And I'm pleased that I did it. I would have liked to have stayed longer because of certain things, you know, they just doesn't play out that way. But I've learned a lot. And I think another part of the healing experience was to join the RSL up here because I still had bad memories of the old RSL and the old school of people who were running it, thinking, well, 'What's the point of doing that when all you're going to do is they're not going to listen to you and not gonna do this?' Because it's the old school. Up here, it's a much younger, I think, the president of our RSL is 40-something, he's much younger, he's only in his mid-40s. So he's got a lot more of an idea of what's going on and bit of a generational thing.

MEGAN SPENCER: Do you think that you not being able to be your true self and open gay man back in '74 when you discharged, did that contribute to your decision to discharge?

PHIL NEIL: Yes, very much so. I felt as if I was learning things, but I just, I wasn't comfortable. I thought well, how can serve my country and maybe have to go and do something if I can't even be comfortable in my own skin? How can I serve my country if I can't even be me? So I can't be the person that I want to be serving the country that I love. And also (inaudible) I wasn't getting anywhere. I wasn't getting any support. Well, maybe not so much getting support as I wasn't going to look for support, because I didn't know what the ramifications were going to be. So I thought, well, rather than do that, I'll just discharge. I really, I shouldn't have done it. I should not have done it, I should have stuck with it. But I just my mental health wasn't doing it. I was imploding. And I thought, well, 'I'm imploding. I'm getting angry. Get out.' It felt as if anything you did was being looked at. I had to watch everything I did.

MEGAN SPENCER: So Phil, when you look at the ADF these days, when you look at, you know, LGBTQI people marching in Mardi Gras, when you hear about the rainbow wreath laying that DEFGLIS do all around the country, what comes to mind these days, when you reflect on that the ADF these institutions and the open service of LGBTI members?

PHIL NEIL: I think it's brilliant. I think it should have happened years before it did. But it happened at that time, for a reason. And I think just watching people marching and wreath laying and just being able to be who you are, is a hugely important thing to people and makes me proud to actually say, 'Well, hey, I was ADF, I didn't get an opportunity. But you do. enjoy it and thrive on it'. Because I didn't have that opportunity. I'm not saying that I feel bitter about it. Because I don't. I got rid of that years ago. I just feel now as if what I did in back in the 70s and '82 was my part of what is now a huge thing. Maybe just a small part. But I still feel that what we did at the '82 wreath laying was something that was important enough to do. And I still feel that to this day that it was something important, something we needed to do, wanted to do and needed to do.

MEGAN SPENCER: So I guess looking back then would you say that it was worth it?

PHIL NEIL: Oh yes, definitely worth it. At the time, I still think at that stage was worth it. All the hell we went through to do it was worth it. And every year I still think 'Hey, it was worth it'. And every time you look at something else that's happening in the ADF, you feel a little bit more proud to say well, 'Hey, it's even more worth it'.

MEGAN SPENCER: So finally, Phil, really my last question to you is, is there anything else you'd like to say about this story? About you being one of the five members of GESA, who tried to lay the wreath back in '82, or anything that's come from that, looking back from now, is there anything else that I haven't asked you that you might like to add?

PHIL NEIL: It's just that I'm very proud of what we did. I'm honoured to be involved in this podcast. I feel proud. And when I speak to people, and they say, 'Mate, you must have had guts back in '82 to do it', I say 'We did, but I'm proud of what we did'. Hopefully, by doing this, it's going to achieve something, or somebody will listen to it or somebody will get something out of it. If they are thinking about joining the ADF, go ahead and do it. If you're thinking about doing anything else that will serve your country, go ahead and do it and feel proud of who you are while you're doing it.

MEGAN SPENCER: Defending with Pride Voices is a podcast series for the Shrine of Remembrance produced by me, Megan Spencer. Speaking today in this extended interview was former leading aircraftman Phil Neil. Many thanks to Phil for generously sharing his insights and lived experience. Phil can also be heard in episode one of the Shrine podcast Defending with Pride Voices: The Power of the Wreath. Music is by Philip Brophy. Special thanks to Nick Henderson from the Australian Queer Archives, and also to the Shrine team. For a full list of credits, please visit the episode show notes The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Shrine of Remembrance. If this interview raises any issues for you, please find Lifeline on 13 11 14 or QLife on 1800 184 527. You can call Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or contact DLVA the Discharged LGBTI Veterans Association on 0400 124 213, or you can visit their website Visit the Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ service exhibition at the Shrine of Remembrance from August 2022 until August 2023. Thank you so much for listening. I'm Megan Spencer speak to you again next time