For the lesbian in the Blue Mountains who fears coming out or the 17-year-old gay man afraid to go back to his homophobic high school, the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service and Twenty10 can be lifesavers.

But both organisations are under- funded and in huge demand. About 100 phone calls per day go unanswered by the volunteers at the Counselling Service because there is no more money to pay for extra phone lines or office costs. For each of the 100 young people who receive direct, vital assistance from Twenty10 every year there must be many more in need.

Luckily, both organisations receive support from within the gay and lesbian community.

The Aurora Group holds high-profile fundraising dinners every year, attended by some of the state’s top dignitaries, business people and generous souls within the community.

From all reports they are great parties and offer a chance for those who have to give to those who have not.

The first 2003 round of Aurora grants from last year’s fundraising efforts was distributed this week. Co-founder Bruce Pollack handed over $10,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service and $10,000 to Twenty10, which provides support and referral services for young people.

When we set up Aurora there were nine of us involved, and we saw that there was a need for fundraising for a number of non-HIV-related charities -“ all of the fundraising that was happening at the time seemed to be channelled towards HIV, Pollack said.

Twenty10 and the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service emerged as longstanding and well-used organisations, and became the Aurora charities of choice.

Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service co-president Roy Stanton said the Aurora money would go towards volunteer training. The counselling service was established in 1978 and has provided information and support for thousands of gay men and lesbians since then.

Volunteer counsellors staffed the phones from 4pm to midnight seven days a week, and the service was in negotiations to provide extra counselling in the post-Mardi Gras week.

We’ll be there if people are feeling down or having troubles, Stanton said. This year we’re hoping it’s a really busy time for partygoers -“ and not for counsellors. But if people are having a hard time, we’ll be there.

Stanton said the counselling service survived because of the hard work of a core group of about 150 volunteers although a Department of Community Services grant paid the wage of the organisation’s one staff member. For all other expenses the service relied on community fundraising.

Aurora has been probably one of our most faithful supporters, he said.

For 21 years Twenty10 has provided support and referral services for young disadvantaged people in our community -“ around 20,000 lives have been positively affected over the years.

Twenty10 executive director Sally Abrahams said the $10,000 Aurora grant would be spent on those who needed it.

We’ll use the money to extend and improve the work that we do in responding to young disadvantaged people and their families. In particular the money will be used to support our housing project, Abrahams said.

Like many other small community organisations we’re under-funded and over-resourced. This money recognises that Twenty10 and the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service are small and barely funded by the government.

The next Aurora Dinner will be held on Saturday 21 June. People can register their interest in attending by phoning 9331 5276 or emailing admin@auroragroup. Tickets will go on sale closer to the event.

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