Adelaide gay activist Ian Purcell and AIDS fundraiser Stephen Hunt have been honoured in this year’s Australia Day awards for their support of gay, lesbian and HIV-positive communities.

Purcell was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the gay and lesbian community in South Australia, and Hunt was announced as a finalist for Young Australian of the Year.

Purcell said he was honoured to accept the award, which he shares with all those who fight for equality. A founding member of the SA group Lesbian and Gay Community Action, Purcell worked with SA police to formulate a Policing of Beats Policy and lobbied for more AIDS funding for gay men in the 1980s.

Purcell told Sydney Star Observer his work was far from over, however, as South Australia is yet to grant legal de facto status to same-sex couples.

In South Australia we’re just so far behind it’s ridiculous, Purcell said. They managed to get [relationship reform] pushed to a parliamentary inquiry. It’s 30 years to this year that SA had the first law reform and it’s just appalling. And we have no gay and lesbian liaison officers in South Australia.

Former Neighbours actor Stephen Hunt was also honoured as a finalist for Young Australian of the Year. Hunt swam the English Channel in 2002 to raise money for AIDS research and travelled the world speaking about HIV/AIDS as part of the World Youth Peace Summit.

About 10 years ago now my uncle died of AIDS, so I was always doing a lot of fundraising in school, Hunt told the Star. And when I eventually did Neighbours I found myself in a really good position to do some really serious things.

Hunt recently returned from two years in the UK working with the Terrence Higgins Trust and is now working for the AIDS Trust of Australia. He’s also preparing for his next fundraiser: an attempt to swim from Spain to Morocco.

It’s considered harder because the tides are really strong. It’s very choppy and there’s about a 10 percent success rate on it. But I went down and checked it out -“ I think there’ll be no problem, Hunt said.

Metaphorically it’s like bringing AIDS awareness from Europe to Africa where it’s really needed. It’s Europe to Africa, and we’re calling it -˜Bridging The Gap’.

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