Volunteers Stepped Up

In October 1982, Doctor Ron Penny officially diagnosed the first case of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Australia at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. HIV and AIDS permanently changed the lives of many. A generation of men lost friends, lovers and partners. Impacted communities experienced loss comparable to wartime.

Australia— and Sydney — should feel very proud of the people who volunteered, stepped up and provided critical in-home care, educational resources, and outreach and a range of other support services. They offered friendship and practical support. They also helped people navigate a medical system that in preceding decades had been openly hostile towards homosexuality. They raised desperately needed funds at a very difficult time.

Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, 1st Anniversary Party at the Midnight Shift, May 1985. Photo by John Jenner, Papers of Barry Lowe. Image courtesy of Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

We hope this exhibition will draw attention to the extraordinary contribution and crucial role of these volunteers. Viewers should note that the historical material capturing this painful era could inadvertently cause distress. 

Extract: Tess Ziems interviewed by Shirleene Robinson.

1987 Safe Sex Sluts at Sleaze Ball:  John Lee, Robert Aldrich, Norman ‘Beryl’ Boyle, Graham Head and Paul Menotti. Image courtesy of Robert French.

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