History is bunk as some wise sage said years ago, but I disagree. History is very much alive and history will happen a microsecond after you finish this sentence! This year in July a very historical event will be celebrated when the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre marks its 30th Anniversary of service, support and care for people living with HIV/AIDS in our community. An organisation founded by interested folk: mainly gay men but with a group of others including lesbians and heterosexual men and women who banded together to try to make some sense about a series of illnesses that were hitting predominantly same-sex attracted men. These strange conditions were making them sick and, for many very soon after, they were dying. While these reports of infections and deaths were occurring overseas and were identified as happening in the USA, the tide of death was approaching Australia.
Over the past few months a team of former and current volunteers and staff have been working with a team of writers to put together the 30th History Project with the end result being a website and book that will chronicle the 30-year history. A number of public lectures are being organised with one covering the 1980s, another on the 1990s and the third by myself that will look at the 2000s onwards and be a personal reflection of my time with the organisation from when I joined as a volunteer in July 1989. There will also be an exhibition of posters and related items that look at the development of health promotion messages over the life of the organisation curated by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives at The Public Records Office.
A series of events have been planned to allow other folk who have had an involvement with the organisation a chance to come together to tell stories and to remember the lives of those we have lost and to celebrate with those who continue to inspire and capture our collective imagination. One of these events will be at The Laird Hotel on Saturday 13 July when men and women aged 18+ will be invited to come along to a BBQ. This is a significant day as one of the first meetings prior to the foundation of the organisation was held in the then Dining Room (now Pool Room) at The Laird.
When the History Project website is launched there will be a function that will allow people to share their memories and stories for others to read and perhaps to inspire people to continue the incredible work that has already been done by staff and thousands of volunteers over the years and the many who remain doing this important work in and for our community. Details of the events leading up to the anniversary will be available on our website www.vicaids.asn.au, in our community media and of course on JOY 94.9.