The marriage equality debate continues to flood our media and social media pages. Unfortunately, it is often the extreme views and actions that get the publicity leaving us feeling awash in a sea of vitriol and extremism. While the struggle for marriage equality may be the current issue, those of us of a certain age may remember a different struggle of the early 1970’s.
In 1974, an Honoury Royal Commission was held in Perth as to whether homosexuality should be legalised. As a young teenager who was uncertain of his sexuality, I remember that period well. My father, an Irish fundamentalist Baptist Minister held the same opinions as Margaret Court. He vehemently disapproved of the legalisation of homosexuality and spoke at the Royal Commission, who politely listened and fortunately disagreed with his extreme views. My father was asked to speak on the 7:30 Report to explain his bigotry on television – a momentous occasion for the family given that he disagreed with television being in the house. He would regularly preach on how homosexuals would go to hell, unless they were healed and became straight. He also believed that if homosexuality was legalised the fabric of society would crumble. It wasn’t just Christmas or Easter we would lose, Western civilisation as we knew it in the seventies in Perth would crumble.
It is easy to smile now in hindsight. Yet those months in 1974 were no laughing matter as anger and hatred spewed across the media in the name of religion and civilised society and the right for free expression of sexuality.
For me, there is a sense of déjà vu. The debate relates now to marriage rather than the legalisation of homosexuality yet many of the arguments carry a similar tone. So what do the 70’s teach us in 2017?
They teach us that society will not crumble or disintegrate. In the 70’s homosexuality was legalised and society continued to develop and grow. When marriage equality is granted, society will continue. Society is not destroyed by honest debate or by the expression of love. Society is torn apart by extremism, by factionalism and by making particular groups in society scapegoats for what we fear.
Extreme views either for or against any argument are often based on fear and a sense of inferiority and uncertainty. We convince ourselves our views are correct by the loudness of our arguments. When we are confident of who we are and of our beliefs we do not need to adopt extreme views.
Finally, extremists are rarely changed by rational arguments. I learnt early on, my father, would never change his views because that would mean acknowledging he may be wrong. Extremists often have a world view based on fear and the need to be right.
How do we apply these lessons to the current time?
Firstly, we can have hope. It seemed unlikely in 1974 homosexuality would be legalised. It was and LGBTI+ people finally had a freedom they didn’t have before. Society did not implode. God took a remarkable dis-interest in the legalisation of homosexuality. God did not return to the earth to punish the evil as my father and many religious leaders predicted. Whatever the outcome of the survey, life will continue and I suspect God will continue to take a remarkable disinterest when LGBTI+ people do have the right to marry.
Secondly, our hope inspires us to work confidently for change. Confident of who we are, we can leave the extremism to those who are more insecure and fearful. We can work with quiet confidence, in a respectful way that reflects our own dignity and the inherent dignity of all people.
Thirdly, when we feel overwhelmed with the noise of extremism, we can allow ourselves to relax understanding the fear and inferiority that lies behind such views and concentrate on looking after ourselves and our own health and mental well-being.
Next week I will address our mental well-being in more detail.
WA AIDS Council is providing free counselling support for people who would like additional support during the marriage equality debate. Additional face-to-face, telephone and online counselling is available throughout the survey process. Call 1800 671 130 or visit waaids.com/counselling for more information.
At the request of the Mental Health Commission, the WA AIDS Council will provide counselling services during the Australian Marriage Equality Postal Survey.
Additional face-to-face, telephone and online counselling is available throughout the survey process.
To chat online, clikc the 'Need Help?' tab on the left side of this page.
Achieving marriage equality is an important step towards reducing the disadvantage, discrimination and distress experienced by LGBTI people and is essential for promoting the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people and communities. Better social outcomes = better health outcomes, including helping educating people about HIV, reducing HIV stigma and preventing further transmission of HIV.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, angry, judged, sad, disappointed, or just want someone to talk to about marriage equality, please call the hotline.
For tips on looking after yourself during the survey, download this helpful tip sheet from our friends at ACON:
Here are some printable posters for your workplace or organisation.
Following the suddenly passing of CEO Andrew Burry in March 2017, and an extensive recruitment process, the Board of the WA AIDS Council is delighted to announce the appointment of Mr. David Kernohan as Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. Kernohan has held senior executive roles in the not-for-profit sector in Western Australia for over 20 years, most recently as CEO of the Mental Health Law Centre (WA).
“The Board and staff of the WA AIDS Council are delighted to welcome David to the role,” said Chairperson Asanka Gunasekera, “and we look forward to a bright future working together to improve the sexual health of Western Australians, reduce HIV transmissions and support those living with HIV.”
Mr. Kernohan has qualifications in Law (LLB Murdoch University), a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) Edith Cowan University, and Mental Health Nursing (Graylands Hospital). Prior to working in the community legal sector David worked in the community services sector with people who were homeless and had complex needs linked to drug, alcohol and mental health issues.
Mr. Gunasekera also thanked Peter ‘Willie’ Rowe for standing in as Interim CEO following Mr. Burry’s sudden passing until Mr. Kernohan’s appointment.
For media comment, please contact:
Western Australian AIDS Council
Ph | 9482 0000
Email | email@example.com
Thank you for purchasing Liberated, by Richard Matias. You have directly contributed to the wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ young people.
LIBERATED is the first hard cover collection of photographs by Perth Photographer Richard Matias and is a celebration of the male form and an expression of life through imagery and words.
100% of every book sold goes directly to support the WAAC Freedom Centre and its work with LGBTQI young people in Western Australia. The Freedom Centre is for young people (under 26) to support each other, to be informed and happy and healthy about their sexuality, sex and gender.
All printing and production costs for this project have been generously donated, so our LGBTIQ+ youth will receive maximum benefit from your purchase.
300 L x 300mm H x 21mm W
Limited Edition Pink Signed and Numbered Dust Cover (50 ONLY) - SOLD OUT
Standard Edition - $150 plus p&h
Express postage within Australia. -$20
For international and pick-up orders, please contact Mark Reid, firstname.lastname@example.org or 9482 0000
Perth residents can pay and pick up a book by visiting the AIDS Council at 664 Murray Street West Perth.
Books available from Wednesday 5th July 2017.
Clinical Services recently offered PLHIV a new and innovative experience interacting with horses and nature.
Mel from Horse Horizons and her colleague Vicky facilitated the workshop, offering their expert guidance and seemingly endless equine wisdom. Conversations were peppered with earthy humour and abundant smiles to warm up the grey skies and keep the rain at bay.
We learnt that horses are prey animals and have a finely honed ability to sense changes in the environment and people’s emotions. They notice nuances in expression and body language and respond accordingly, giving valuable feedback about how we are communicating.
They are straightforward and not capable of being duplicitous; what they show on the outside matches how they feel on the inside. Vicky explained that horses are sensitive to duplicity in humans. If there is a mismatch in what we humans feel and the way we express ourselves, horses will sense this, and feel less able to trust or move closer. This mirroring effect invites us to be more congruent with how we feel and what we communicate. This strengthens our attunement with the horse and with ourselves.
Horses teach us other lessons through their presence alone. Like many of our beloved furry friends, they don’t judge us on our history, appearance or dress sense. They simply let us be.
We explored our boundaries, how to respect our own and those of others. Horses let us know if they need space; they will move away. We too, can show them when they have crossed our boundary, by firmly yet non-aggressively nudging them away. We may also expand or soften our boundaries, inviting the horses with our outstretched palms to come closer.
All up this was a truly moving experience, topped off with a yummy lunch and homemade scones with jam and cream. Thanks to Mel’s Mum, we were extremely well fed and left with our bellies as full as our hearts.
What the attendees had to say…
'The whole experience of being with horses was extremely good for body and soul'
'Amazing day with animals, Mother Nature and fantastic people. Very safe space to let your emotions go free’
‘Being with horses made me aware of my personal boundaries, and helped me to assert them more’.
‘My first experience with horses…it was a beautiful space to connect, beautiful set up and comforting energy'…
'What a wonderfully uplifting experience, I can't speak highly enough of it. I would encourage anyone who was too ‘in their heads’ or a little stressed to give it a go’…
‘The experience was deeply moving and I felt I was able to be myself and be seen’
The WA AIDS Council once again sponsored the Miss Africa Perth event for 2017, which was held on Saturday 27th May.
Miss Africa Perth is an event that showcases African heritage including culture, fashion, traditions, music and art. It provides a snapshot of cultural and social identities and serves the purpose of strengthening community cohesiveness and promoting cultural understanding. This event empowers young African women to become role models for their communities.
The WA AIDS Council have sponsored this event since 2015 and work to empower African community leaders to take ownership of HIV. As part of the sponsorship this year, our Training and Development Coordinator, Reena D'Souza, provided HIV education to the Miss Africa contestants on Saturday 20th May, each of them ambassadors for youth and culture in their communities. WAAC also offers the contestants ongoing support for HIV education in their communities and provides future opportunities for them to be involved in HIV education initiatives.
For more info go to https://www.facebook.com/Miss-Africa-Perth-175980242461800/
The Aboriginal Sexual Health (ASH) Forum presented 'Yarning our way' on the 3rd & 4th May. There was a strong focus on youth this year, with participants learning about new resources and hearing from exciting guest speakers about sexual and gender diversity, resilience, overcoming shame, body image, and current STI/BBV issues for Aboriginal communities. The WA AIDS Council Health Promotion team attended the event, and Senior Health Promotion Officer Carley Robbins reflected on the experience below:
"WOW! The Aboriginal Sexual Health Forum 2017 was incredible, with two days packed with amazing, diverse speakers from all over Western Australia. It was set on the mighty Derbarl Yerrigan at Burswood on Swan, with SHQ (Sexual Health Quarters) hosting the forum. They did an excellent job, with lots of time for discussion and activities which was great! I learned so much in just two days - some of the highlights for me included hearing speakers 'talk real' about their work on the ground, sharing experiences of what worked and what didn’t work, which was extremely valuable. One of the key messages I took away from all the presenters was to make sexual health messaging literal and easy to understand, and that humour is always a great way to engage. Presenters also highlighted the importance of getting involved with engaging young people and family members in sports and fun activities as a way of being there for when they have questions about sexual health. I left the forum feeling truly inspired and excited to start implementing what I learned in my day to day work. Thanks so much to all the presenters and SHQ for organising the event, it was another amazing year!"
The Western Australian AIDS Council (WAAC), established in 1985, leads the Western Australian community in the provision of a wide range of services with the two primary objectives of prevention and education of people at risk of acquiring HIV, and the provision of care and support to people living with HIV. It is a community based, not-for-profit organisation, with a focus on exceptional service delivery.
WAAC’s Board seeks to appoint a CEO to provide strategic leadership for the organisation during a period of considerable change in the global response to HIV prevention and treatment. With diverse responsibilities across issues such as organisational culture, policy development, funding and service delivery, this position is both strategic and operational by nature. The CEO will focus the organisation on constantly reviewing and developing public and private sector relationships to consolidate its capacity to make a real difference.
We seek an individual who has initiative, advanced leadership capabilities and commercial aptitude for this key role. Intended applicants are likely to have formal qualifications in a health/community services related discipline, together with a proven record of success at a senior executive level. An attractive remuneration package is offered.
Application Packs and additional information for this position can be obtained by emailing email@example.com or by calling Willie Rowe at the Western Australian AIDS Council
on 08 9482 0000. Applications close June 2 2017.
Last week the WA AIDS Council Manager, Health Promotion Matt Creamer, was invited to speak to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into Crystal Methamphetamine. We took this opportunity to argue that investment in harm reduction programs is currently ignored in favour of the investment in supply and demand reduction (law enforcement). We advocated for an evidence based response that acknowledges that methamphetamine related harms are most experienced by gay men, injecting drug users and Aboriginal populations, and that investment should be such that responses are community led. Matt concluded by saying that the language and rhetoric around methamphetamine use was unhelpful and discouraged people from seeking assistance. You can read his speech below…
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into Crystal Methamphetamine
3 May 2017
Good afternoon Committee Members and welcome to Western Australia.
My name is Matt Creamer, and I am the Manager of Health Promotion at the Western Australian AIDS Council.
I’d like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the lands of the Wadjuk Noongar people, who are the natural guardians of this beautiful place. I pay my respect to their elders, past, present and emerging.
I am extremely honoured to have been invited to speak today – my first time in front of such a Committee – and we are very grateful for the opportunity to expand on the points raised in our submission of 9 June 2015.
I would like first to tell you a little about our organisation, the work we do and the way we do it, to give further context to our submission.
The WA AIDS Council is a professional health promotion agency in sexual health and blood-borne viruses, and for more than 30 years, we have provided
- Support and care services
- Health promotion, community development, education (including peer education) and prevention services
- Capacity building and professional support for individuals, communities and sector organisations; and
- Policy advice and advocacy at a community, state and national level.
Of all the expertise and experience we have developed as an organization over three decades, there are some that are very particular to us. These include:
- Community engagement and community capacity building using a peer approach
- Long-term engagement with vulnerable communities; and
- A deep knowledge of personal and social issues connected with sexual health and blood-borne viruses, and the behavioural and medical science associated with them.
The relevant core principles that underpin our work are:
- An adherence to the principles of harm reduction;
- Active participation of affected individuals and communities including peer education and community ownership to increase their influence over the determinants of their health; and
- An adherence to the principles of multiculturalism and substantive equality.
Perhaps most relevant to this Inquiry, the WA AIDS Council has operated a Needle and Syringe Exchange Program more than 28 years, supplying around two million pieces of sterile injecting equipment annually to injecting drug users in Western Australia.
Around 50% of our clients regularly report methamphetamine as the last drug they injected, and many are long term clients.
Importantly, the nature of our exchange service means that used injecting equipment is returned to us to be destroyed, rather than discarded; we have a 94 per cent exchange rate resulting in improved public health and community health outcomes.
Other services delivered by us to marginalized and vulnerable individuals include one-on-one counselling, care and support with individual clients who report problematic methamphetamine use.
As you will have already have heard today from Jill Rundle and Ethan James from WANADA, and read within the 2015 submission from the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug User League) the three pillars of demand, supply and harm reduction are not currently equally distributed.
Each is important, but – perhaps unsurprisingly given our experience and credentials – today I seek to reinforce the importance of a harm reduction framework in the response to crystal methamphetamine use in Australia.
The Penington Institute’s written submission has previously informed this Inquiry that in 2009-2010, around two thirds of the total drug-related funds were expended on law enforcement, while only 2.2 per cent were spent on harm reduction initiatives.
We would note three critical points for consideration when determining a harm-reduction response to addressing community’s needs while delivering lasting outcomes.
Firstly, the need for an evidence-based response to address the harms related to methamphetamine use.
You have suggested today the consensus is that methamphetamine use has increased. The evidence available to us does not support that assertion. Rather, the data tells us that the way that methamphetamine is consumed has changed – from a powder and base form to the crystalline form of methamphetamine that is easily smoked and injected. The harms associated with crystalline methamphetamines are more serious and hence more visible, but the amount of methamphetamine being consumed has not changed significantly.
Similarly, the evidence does not support that larger numbers of people are using methamphetamine; the numbers of methamphetamine users has remained stable over time.
Further, and contrary to what you have heard from other submissions today about methamphetamine being a drug that does not discriminate, current evidence shows that there is higher usage amongst specific sub populations, these being:
- Injecting drug users, who are significantly more at risk of the acquisition of HIV and other blood borne viruses,
- Men who have sex with men, who use methamphetamine at rates about 4 and a half times the general population; and who often use methamphetamine as a precursor to sexual behavior, heightening their risk of the acquisition of HIV. This increases again for men who have sex with men who are also living with HIV; and
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have high rates of drug and alcohol use generally, but often limited access to culturally secure health promotion initiatives and healthcare options, and who have increasing rates of injecting drug use, particularly in rural and remote areas.
There is a need to urgently identify and address the needs of these sub-populations, and to fund the expansion of evidence-based interventions that address methamphetamine related harms such as the spread of blood borne viruses, poor mental health and dependence. Rural and remote populations should not be excluded from such responses.
Assuming the stance that methamphetamine use is spread evenly across the broad Australian societal landscape risks failing to adequately and appropriately fund interventions in the places – and with the people – that they are most needed.
It is perhaps worth reiterating here that the majority of methamphetamine users are in control of their consumption.
Secondly, a whole of community approach is required.
Our experience as an AIDS Council has taught us that the most successful interventions are a combination of those aimed at an individual, family and community level.
Non-Government organisations with their experience developing harm-reduction programs, and peer-based delivery service models, and with their considerable understanding of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of society, must be included in the response to methamphetamine use.
Further, connections must be supported across sectors, ensuring linkages between non-Government Organisations, the Public Sector, mental health and community welfare services, justice and emergency services, and within the broader community settings in which methamphetamine may be prevalent.
And finally today, we consider the language and rhetoric around methamphetamine use likely to negatively impact the chances of methamphetamine users seeking appropriate support and adequate health care.
Our experience shows that negative media attention on similar and related health issues such as HIV, Hepatitis or other chronic health conditions impedes health promotion activities, prevention initiatives, and access to suitable health care and treatment options.
Failure to change the language, perception and depiction of methamphetamine use is likely to result in people accessing healthcare and support services only in times of crisis.
The importance of thinking of methamphetamine use and its associated harms as a health issue, rather than a criminal one, cannot be overstated.
Once again, I thank the committee for this opportunity, and will endeavor to answer any questions you may have in relation to our submission.