AIDS Trust CEO Mark Orr has stepped into the role of ACON president as of last Saturday.

Replacing the long-serving and well respected Adrian Lovney, Orr not only faces the task of living up to his predecessor, but directing ACON through a future period of growth.

If anyone is up to the task, it is Orr, whose other achievements include a stint as Secretary on the ACON board, a term as New Mardi Gras co-chair and several years experience as a Mardi Gras organiser.

After replacing the equally long-standing David Buchanan, who served as ACON secretary for 19 years until 2006, Orr is no stranger to taking on difficult roles and has some invaluable experience under his belt.

While serving as Secretary, people had suggested that taking on the presidency might be something to do, Orr told SSO.

My reaction was always to say, -˜well it’s not something I would not like to do’. It’s certainly not the type of role you walk in off the street to and say -˜here I am’.

For me it’s been about taking some time to get to know the organisation, get to know the board and really know what the issues are.

ACON has positioned itself as a GLBT health organisation, which reflects the complexity of our lives. It’s such a broad thing that covers everything from domestic violence to lesbian health to HIV, to the more recent anti-violence campaigns.

There are so many things you can do and you are only limited by the amount of funds you have -“ I find that really exciting.

Of course, our core business has always been and will always be HIV, but our approach has had to change.

It’s now about saying -˜yes, HIV is the core of our message’, but how do we weave that message into all the other aspects of our lives? So that it’s not just about someone banging on about that one issue.

It’s important for us to be constantly working on getting that issue of safe sex out there in lots of different ways, so people don’t get fatigued and complacent.

Everything is interrelated, like one of those Ven diagrams you did at school. The way we see it, is that issues of alcohol and drugs, mental health, STIs and HIV are all interrelated so our goal is to become a bit of a health hub.

So people can turn to ACON, as an organisation that they know, to receive a wide variety of services – or to at least get an appropriate referral.

We want people to feel comfortable going there, because they know it’s part of the community and they know that their experience is going to be a positive one.

And what of Lovney? In an interview with SSO the long-serving past president said he stood down proud of what the organisation had achieved under his leadership.

He said ACON’s achievements were the result of outstanding staff and volunteers and the extraordinary work done by the organisation’s CEO Stevie Clayton.

Have your say: What direction would you like to see ACON take as it moves past the 30th anniversary of Mardi Gras?

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