The New Zealand Defence Force has been lauded as a world leader in diversity and for support of the LGBTQI community, and has been ranked as number one for integration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender personnel into the nation’s military.
With the addition of the Human Rights Act to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in 1994, discrimination based on sexual orientation was criminalised. Although there is no specific reference to transgender people in the New Zealand statute, it has been held by the Solicitor General that protections for transgender people did in fact come under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 under the sex discrimination provision. Whilst the Human Rights Commission and many activists still assert the need for an express provision in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to properly protect transgender people from discrimination, the NZDF as an equal opportunity employer does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity. The policy of inclusion was reportedly still in effect in 2017.
In support of maintaining diversity and inclusiveness the Chief of Defence Force approved the establishment of a support group for the military’s LGBTI personnel. In 2012 an organisation called the NZDF Overwatch was launched within the defence force. Overwatch provides peer support and networking within the defence force to the GLBTI community, both in uniform and out. The organisation also offers education and guidance to command and commanders. The NZDF and Overwatch was recognised for their inclusiveness and approach to equal employment opportunity being named the Supreme award winner of the ANZ and Equal Employment Opportunities Trust, Diversity Awards NZ 2013.