Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) has felt the full effect of recent government defunding with 22 staff made redundant on Friday, but it vows to continue spreading its message of health and wellbeing.
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced in May that he’d re-direct nearly $2.6 million worth of funding from the community health group resulting in the organisation being forced to let go the majority of its staff.
Reasons for the defunding given by the minister included claims that QAHC had not done enough to prevent an increase in HIV infection rates and that their focus had become “too political”.
QAHC refuted these claims, saying the reasons were based on “misinformation about the disease in Queensland and Australia, a misunderstanding of how population based public health works and a misrepresentation of our organisation”.
“We know that the approach that Healthy Communities is taking to HIV prevention is in line with international best practice, and this was confirmed at the recent International AIDS Conference in Washington,” executive director Paul Martin told the Star Observer.
QAHC has lost staff at all of its Queensland locations, including Brisbane, Cairns and Maroochydore.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff at Healthy Communities for the incredible work that they have done” QAHC president Mark Morein said.
“It is hard to be told that work about which you are passionate, that you have done well, and which has taken hard work, has little, if any value in the eyes of our current government.” he added.
Martin said that all of the staff are coping in their own way.
“The common feeling is of anger and helplessness.” he said.
The loss of staff is of major concern for Martin in the delivery of frontline services for LGBTI Queenlanders.
“The lack of these services will have a negative effect on the health and wellbeing of LGBT Queenslanders.”
Despite this major setback, Martin is adamant that with an already substantial number of volunteers and financial donations, QAHC will survive.
“We have survived difficult times before and we will survive this, with the support of the LGBT community, fair minded Queenslanders and progressives within the LNP,” he said.
Former staff member Ged Farmer celebrated the work QAHC has done over its 28 year history and believes it will continue to grow.
“Our achievements have included empowering the lifestyles of our target audience and be assured that Healthy Communities will continue to operate and I believe will become much stronger from this experience,” Farmer said.