Lobby still waits

Lobby still waits

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has received $19,000 out of $35,000 earmarked from funds raised through this year’s Azure party, but is still waiting on the AIDS Trust of Australia to release the full amount.

The $35,000 grant has been a source of considerable tension between the Lobby, the Trust and the Azure party organisers (Iris Group Productions) over the past few months. The AIDS Trust agreed to act as trustee for the money raised from the party, but has since refused to pass the money on to the Lobby in a lump sum: a move which the Lobby leadership says puts their work in jeopardy. (Money raised from Azure, and its predecessor, the Harbour Party, represents the bulk of the Lobby’s annual funding.)

At a meeting between Trust and Lobby representatives last week, the Trust proposed a payment schedule which would see the outstanding amount paid in monthly instalments over three months. The Trust’s executive officer, Terry Trethowan, gave Lobby representatives the first instalment of this money, in the form of a cheque for $13,000. This brings the total amount passed on so far to $19,000.

Lobby co-convenor Somali Cerise told Sydney Star Observer the Lobby committee (which meets next Thursday) would discuss whether or not they would accept the Trust’s proposed payment schedule. The cheque for $13,000 had been banked, but on the understanding that that act did not of itself signal Lobby support for the Trust’s payment plan, Cerise said.

If the Lobby accepts the payment plan, the Trust will make further payments in August and September (the last payment possibly taking place after the Trust’s annual food and wine fair, which is slated for Saturday 27 September).

The Trust still hasn’t identified any reasons why the payment could not be made immediately, Lobby co-convenor Rob McGrory said. We’ve sought assurances from the Trust that the money is there, and those assurances have been given.

Trethowan told the Star he had undertaken to respond to the Lobby on a number of issues, including the issue of why the Trust was not paying the Lobby a lump sum immediately.

While the issue of the Lobby’s grant continues to haunt the AIDS Trust, it may also prove to be a headache for the organisers of the Azure Party, Iris Group Productions.

Last week, the Star revealed that the contract between the Iris Group and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (who manage the site of the Azure party) stipulates that fundraised moneys are to be passed on to the beneficiaries within eight weeks of the event.

This week, a spokesperson for the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust said the organisation takes all our event contracts very seriously and, as a matter of course, monitors the performance of each and every event organiser against their contract. Serious breaches may result in a review of contractual arrangement.

Iris Group director Jay Myers declined to comment. He also refused to confirm or reject the veracity of a statement made by AIDS Trust chairman Chris Puplick (reported in last week’s Star) that staggered payments to the Lobby were made at the request of the Iris Group.

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