At the recent launch of Twenty10’s Q&A series, former senior government advisor Bill Bowtell outlined lessons from the AIDS crisis that future gay and lesbian leaders will need in the challenges ahead.

A lot of leadership is not waking up with a clever idea, but talking. If you go to government and ask for money you need those people to support you, Bowtell told ABC’s Fran Kelly and a room full of current and future community leaders.

AIDS was a crash course in coalition building -“ government, doctors, researchers, sex workers, gay men and lesbians. They did a lot of talking to politicians.

In 1987 the efforts paid off when the Hawke government came through with the money that established AIDS councils, injecting rooms and research grants.

The lesson of HIV should be applied broadly. The great thing for young people is that HIV policies are here. They can now push for other things, Bowtell said.

Equality, needing the 58 [discriminatory laws] gone, was now mainstream, he said, with many supporters in high level government and gay and lesbian leaders in all walks of life.

You need bureaucracy. We’re never going to be adequately funded. But as people leave or die the system keeps going.

We have institutions like ACON, Sydney Star Observer, the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service, and Twenty10, but it’s easy to slip backwards, he warned.

Without a life or death problem where does that leave the gay and lesbian community? Bowtell asked.

It comes back to leadership, one person to have an idea, but it requires bringing people together. That building is really important. Not one person against the world.

Twenty10 executive officer Meredith Turnbull will be one of the facilitators who will train 15-20 young people in adaptive leadership. But the program still needs sponsors.

If we reach target of $60,000 it will be matched by an anonymous donor, she announced at the launch.

She said it wasn’t just about making the gay and lesbian community better, but improving the wider community too.

I was reading through the Twenty10 case files of 20 years ago. It painted a disturbing picture of what we did to our young gay and lesbian people, she said at the launch.

Then I read the current files. It said the same story.

We need new leadership. What will we do with our ageing population? They are awkward questions. It’s going to be our generation now who deal with that.

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