A grassroots anti-homophobia activist, a gay sexual health pioneer and a long-term supporter of South-Western Sydney’s gay and lesbian community are among the citizens recognised on this year’s Australia Day Honours List.
But openly gay High Court judge and NSW Australian of the Year Michael Kirby did not take out the top national accolade, with fellow nominee, Queensland immunologist Ian Frazer named 2006 Australian of the Year at a ceremony in Canberra last night.
This year’s Australia Day Honours List salutes the achievements of 662 Australians.
Sexual health expert Dr David Bradford, who helped lead anti-AIDS efforts in the epidemic’s earliest days, was one of 151 people to be appointed a Member of Order of Australia (AM) this year.
Bradford was director of what would become the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre when the first Australian case of AIDS was confirmed in 1983.
The sexual health expert continued working with the gay and bisexual community as a private practitioner in inner Melbourne during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
We were kind of thrown in at the deep end without knowing anything about it, Bradford said of the first years of HIV/AIDS in Australia.
I was involved in what was really the worst phases of HIV when we didn’t have any good treatments and there wasn’t anything you could do really to stop the progression, he said.
The Sydney-born doctor later became sexual health director at Cairns Base Hospital, before his retirement from full-time work in 2004.
Bradford -“ who first became interested in sexual health on a medical placement during the Vietnam War -“ said he was overwhelmed when he learned of his Australia Day honour.
The Cairns resident said seeing sexual health become a recognised medical specialty was a highlight of his 41-year career, as was witnessing improved treatment and acceptance for the HIV-positive community.
Brisbane mother Shelley Argent’s energetic efforts to tackle homophobia won her the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) alongside 463 other recipients.
A desire to support her family was Argent’s initial motivation to take over the running of the Brisbane branch of support group Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) in 1998.
I have a gay son and when he came out during Year 12 in the late 1990s there was absolutely nowhere that I could find for me to go for support or even just information, Argent told the Star.
I am one of those mothers who wanted to know about what my child’s life was like.
Argent, pictured, began volunteering at the Queensland AIDS Council in 1997 to learn more about the gay community.
She was then put in touch with a former convenor of PFLAG Brisbane, eventually taking over a group that had been neglected for some time.
Coming across PFLAG was just a fluke because I’d never heard of them, Argent said.
When I first started doing it in 1998 I marched in Brisbane Pride and all I had was the banner which somebody had put together quickly for me. I held the banner on one side and my son held it on the other with the dog. And now I never touch the banner -“ we’ve got so many people more than willing to help.
We’ve got about 300 people on our mailing list and we’ve just become incorporated.
Argent has also written booklets promoting tolerance for sexual diversity and has made her message heard during radio talks in regional Queensland.
These people are really quite frightened and not game to come forward. I think by me being on the radio and just speaking and saying that -˜gay is OK’, at least it gives them a little bit of comfort if they’ve got a gay child, she said.
Argent said she was really honoured to be on the Australia Day list.
But then on the next hand I felt really humbled -¦ you do this stuff just because you see the need, she said.
You don’t do it necessarily for the accolades.
Bankstown mayor Helen Westwood -“ a long-term advocate for gay and lesbian rights in south-western Sydney -“ was also appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to local government and community groups.
Late television great Graham Kennedy was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).
For the full Australia Day Honours List visit www.itsanhonour.gov.au.