I grew up in New Zealand but I have been in Australia for about 40 years. I was on my way to England when I came to Sydney in the late 1960s and decided to stay. I got a job with Qantas as a flight attendant, which forced me to cancel my continued journey, and I never looked back.
Those very early days were probably the best days of flying ever. Whatever the length of a trip away, you got 75 percent of that time off when you came home.
I had a tremendous amount of free time, and I used that free time to explore things I liked to do, including work with the community. I used to visit people in hospital and people who were sick at home. I was also going to Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), which was in Paddington in those days.
It was through the church that I really got interested in caring. The church was instrumental in the early days of Community Support Network (CSN) and Ankali.
I think that’s where my caring ethos came from. I was also interested in caring because of my cultural background. I’m part Maori, and we come from a tradition of caring.
It was really an eclectic range of people in the early CSN groups. These were the very early days -“ I went through in Group 4 and my partner David went through in Class 6. We were really the early pioneers if you like.
We were called upon to shop for the client, take them to hospital or change their sheets and bathe clients if they were really sick at home.
I didn’t have the same client all the time, but I definitely did build up a bond with them.
You really had to try to leave the client behind when you went home, because when the client passed on there was a gaping hole.
Despite the fact that you didn’t want that attachment with the client, it was there. When they died it was so tragic. Nothing seemed to be done about it because AIDS was this strange gay disease.
David and I worked for a long period of time, but carers get burnout if there’s nobody caring for them. I think that’s what happens with a lot of CSN carers unfortunately.
I have also been involved with the community through MCC. When I first went to MCC in 1974 I was apprehensive. The first person to greet me when I went there was a heterosexual woman who said, That’s my husband up there, and I thought, Am I in the right place?
Then I realised I was and I became very interested in the church. I became a delegate for the church and travelled to conferences in the US.
When I was at one of the conferences I thought, I really have a calling to do ministry. I became the associate pastor of MCC Good Shepherd in 1994, the second MCC in Sydney. I became pastor in 1998.
We used to worship at Francis Street in Sydney and then because we were quite close to MCC Sydney we thought we really needed to move.
I remember one of the board members said, We should go out west. I said, That’s a wonderful idea. Newtown would be absolutely wonderful.
They said, We don’t mean Newtown. We mean Parramatta. I thought wow. To me that was redneck country in those days. But we moved out there and haven’t looked back since.
We now worship in Wentworthville, and the church turns 20 in September. There are about 70 members in the congregation. The ages vary from 26 to the 70s I think. We get gay people as well as straight people who feel disenfranchised from their church.
Another highlight was being the minister for the wedding of 2DAY FM newsreader Geoff Field and his partner Jason Kerr at Circular Quay last year. It was a wonderful experience. The people there were so supportive.
I’m not involved with CSN as much nowadays, but I’m very interested in the GLBT carer support network that ACON is setting up.
It’s in its infancy. It would be fantastic if they could instigate some system where we can care for carers. Carers can get burnout if there’s nobody looking out for them.
Interview by Ian Gould
For more information on the ACON GLBT Carer Support Network, call 9206 2032 or visit www.acon.org.au/glbtcarers.