Being a Volunteer

At a time when HIV and AIDS were heavily stigmatised, Sydney volunteers stood shoulder to shoulder with those affected.

For some gay men, volunteering provided a means of coping with a seemingly relentless epidemic, while others felt obligated to assist as people they knew fell sick. It was about making sure that friends and lovers were treated with the dignity society refused to give them.

Yes: You Can Do Something About AIDS, June 1987 (ACON) [side 1]. Image courtesy of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Volunteers provided in-home care, answered telephones, served on boards and committees, designed and produced educational resources, conducted outreach across the community, from beats through to nightclubs, fundraised wherever possible and offered a range of other support services.

1989 Out loving-out living-out lasting congratulations poster. Image reproduced with the permission of ACON (formerly AIDS Council of NSW).

While some people volunteered for short but intense periods, others spent years helping to manage the epidemic. For those individuals, the arrival of HIV and AIDS completely altered their life course.

Volunteers helped to manage what threatened to become Australia’s biggest public health crisis of the 20th century, often paying a personal or professional price for their efforts. Yet, so many of these individuals stress how important volunteering was to them as a means of coping and contributing during a time of great crisis.

Extract: David Edler interviewed by Robert Reynolds. David became a CSN carer in 1986. He also became a CSN committee member, volunteered with Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Education at ACON over several years, assisted with fundraising, and provided entertainment at events.
Extract: David Edler interviewed by Robert Reynolds.
Extract: David Edler interviewed by Robert Reynolds.
Extract: Nicola Addison interviewed by Shirleene Robinson. Nicola first trained as a CSN volunteer in 1989. She has worked at ACON for 20 years (over two separate periods of employment), and still works there today.
Extract: Barrie Brockwell interviewed by Robert Reynolds. Barrie volunteered as a CSN carer from the mid-80s to late 1988. He was also involved in organising volunteer rosters, and later worked at ACON.
Extract: Perry Head interviewed by Anisa Puri. Perry volunteered in a range of roles for about eight years from 1994 onwards including as a CSN carer, a trainer for carers, and a member and Chair of the CSN Committee. He also served as a member of the ACON Board, but left the Board to return to being a carer.
Extract: Perry Head interviewed by Anisa Puri. He served on the ACON Board around 1988/1999.
Extract: Perry Head interviewed by Anisa Puri.
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