HOLDING the Man film director Neil Armfield has been recognised by the Victorian AIDS Council for providing a platform for gay men to have their voices heard on the issues central to their lives.

Armfield, who was presented the President’s Award at the VAC’s recent annual general meeting, was also recognised for his direction of the Australian production of Angels in America.

Armfield said the work he has done to champion and represent the lives of gay men was inspired by a trip he took to Indonesia when he was 24.

“I visited the great Indonesian poet and playwright WS Rendra, and this was before homosexuality had been decriminalised in Australia and before AIDS had hit,” he told the Star Observer.

“And [Rendra] sort of said ‘why aren’t you making theatre about this?’

“He had a way of making everything he did relevant and about the world we’re living in, and I’ve tried to observe that in ways that aren’t always as direct.

“I suppose that’s what the journey to Holding the Man was really about… even though it’s about a particular time, it’s actually about an utterly universal love story.”

Armfield said the VAC was crucial to the development of the film, as the team gave him rehearsal space and were a constant resource for information. “I felt extremely honoured to be noticed by an organisation that’s as distinguished and important as the VAC, and so to be given the President’s Award was overwhelming,” he said.

The VAC also presented a number of other awards at the AGM, including the inaugural Greig Friday Leadership Award in honour of the long-serving VAC volunteer who died earlier this year in the Germanwings Flight tragedy.

The award was given to peer education volunteer Jesse Oey who facilitates Young and Gay, the same group Friday was a part of when he first became involved with VAC.

VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said the award was a great way to celebrate Friday’s legacy.

“Grieg was an astounding young leader for VAC,” he said.

“After his far too early death this year we decided to establish the Grieg Friday Leadership Award… he was still a young leader himself at the time of his death.”

The VAC’s highest honour is Life Membership of the organisation, which was this year awarded to the original VAC Board who served in 1984.

Daniel MacPhail and Chris Williams were also recognised with Special Service Awards for their advocacy on PrEP and for co-founding the PrEP’d for Change Facebook group.

The full list of VAC Award recipients:

  • Life Memberships: 1984 VAC Board
  • President’s Award: Neil Armfield
  • Greig Friday Leadership Award: Jesse Oey
  • Media Award: Archer Magazine
  • Special Service Award: Daniel MacPhail and Chris Williams — co-founders of the PrEP’d for Change Facebook group
  • Special Service Award: Zoe Belle Gender Collective — trans and gender diverse support and advocacy organisation
  • Special Service Award: Harm Reduction Victoria — drug user rights and harm reduction organisation

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