Long-time Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service volunteer and co-founder Peter Trebilco and the former president of PLWH/A (NSW) Phillip Medcalf were among the list of recipients of this year’s Australia Day honours, announced on Monday. Both men were awarded the medal (OAM) in the General Division; Medcalf’s award was made posthumously.
Trebilco, who is 76, was recognised for over 40 years of service to a range of gay/lesbian and mainstream community organisations, including the Counselling Service, the Mental Health Association of NSW and the Public Health Association of NSW.
Nominated for the honour by CAMP NSW founders Peter Bonsall-Boone and Peter de Waal, Trebilco knew of his award in September but kept quiet about it until this week’s announcement.
He told Sydney Star Observer that the honour represented an awful lot of collegiate activity, and that it was very much a collective thing.
Trebilco noted the awards made in previous years to gay and lesbian community activists such as Bill Whittaker and Stevie Clayton, but said, For a community that’s been active since the 1960s, we don’t have a terribly good batting average. Recognition for work on gay and lesbian human rights issues sometimes came belatedly, he added.
Medcalf was recognised for his contributions to a range of HIV/AIDS organisations including PLWH/A (NSW), the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and NAPWA (the National Association of People With HIV/AIDS).
PLWH/A executive officer Antony Nicholas said Medcalf had been the longest-serving president of the organisation, from 1996 until May 2000 -“ a time when both the epidemic and the organisation were going through rapid changes, Nicholas said.
Medcalf passed away in February last year, while still serving as president of NAPWA.
His partner, Paul Beckman, said Phillip would have been really chuffed by the honour, but also would have been incredibly modest about it, as was his way.
Phillip developed a passion for fighting for the rights of people with HIV/AIDS, and he was very comfortable in being open and public about his own status, Beckman said.
New South Wales governor Marie Bashir will present the awards to Trebilco and to Beckman (who will accept Medcalf’s award in his stead) at a ceremony in Government House in May.