Melbourne’s LGBTQI community is mourning the loss of Ayman Barbaresco, who passed away on Friday evening from ongoing health complications. For those who knew Ayman, his sudden death has left a void that very few could fill, and for those whom have been touched by his tireless commitment to his community, his death is impossible to process.

Tributes to the memory of Ayman began flooding Facebook over the weekend. A passionate advocate for people living with special needs, Ayam often put the needs of others before his own. He fought tirelessly for disability rights, marginalised individuals, and those among us who had fallen through the gaps.

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Ayman was a long-standing volunteer for many of our organisations, including Switchboard, Thorne Harbour Health, the soon to be completed Victorian Pride Centre, Drummond Street Services and Queer Space. For many years, Ayman worked with Switchboard as a volunteer on the phones, before joining the organisations board and becoming a member of Switchboard’s community engagement committee.

Joe Ball, Switchboard CEO, fondly recalls Ayman’s contribution to Switchboard. 

Ayman represented everything we strive to be as an organisation – big hearted, generous and always there to help those having a hard time. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with this wonderful man. We spent a fortnight on the road together on the LGBTI Rural Roadshow where we stood on stalls, marched, and planned Switchboard’s future and our events together. If there is something Ayman always was, it was dependableif he said he would be there, he would be there. I will miss him. I already miss him. His legacy will live on at Switchboard in all we do because of the contributions he made over the years.”

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Personally, I had the pleasure of working with Ayman on several occasions. Most memorably, was when I invited him to be in my multimedia installation, Cry. I was blown away by his courage, his openness and his want to help those in need. Though I am certain that Ayman would prefer me to use this opportunity to shine a light on the many unsung heroes in our community, his own light shined so bright and strong it was formidable in the best possible way.

In his tribute to Ayman on Facebook, friend, writer and community leader Daniel  Witthaus summed up how so many of those people whose lives had been touched by Ayman were feeling. 

“I had the honour of holding his hand during the last few weeks, and I did my best to let him know that an entire community would’ve gladly taken my place.”

Rest in peace, Ayman. And thank you.

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