BGF 30 Years: The future of Bobby Goldsmith Foundation
It has been at the forefront of community HIV support for 30 years, but as CEO David Riddell tells Cec Busby, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation is ready adapt and change to overcome the challenges of the future.
Since embarking on his journey at Bobby Goldsmith Foundation as a case worker around four years ago, BGF CEO David Riddell has a unique perspective on Australia’s oldest HIV charity.
With a background in community health, Riddell came to BGF following work with Positive Life and ACON. At BGF, Riddell filled the roles of caseworker then a client service manager. Stepping into the shoes of outgoing CEO Bev Lange two years ago, Riddell has shepherded the charity though an era of growth.
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“Our mission statement is to empower people to live well,” Riddell tells SX. “Some people will always struggle for a multiplicity of reasons but we try to work with what people are able to do, and what they want to do. It’s a wellness model and that can become increasingly difficult as people age and have multiple illnesses and issues – not just HIV.”
Riddell says that BGF has some clients who have been with the charity since its inception and for many, BGF is the one constant in their lives. As such he feels a responsibility for these clients’ welfare.
“We work with people whether they are moving towards being well – or moving towards the end of their life. Each one presents challenges.”
The changing face of HIV also means the illness is no longer defined solely by the experience of the gay community. For Riddell and BGF, this equates to a changing client base as well.
“It’s not just white Australian gay men any more. It’s all different communities. I think the challenge is about meeting the needs of such diverse communities.”
Moreover, Riddell must steer the organisation through an ever-changing political and bureaucratic landscape, such as those contained in the latest federal budget.
“If you live in a family group there are other levels of support. If you lose a wage there is someone else to create a buffer. But if you live by yourself and are on Centrelink payments it’s going to be so much harder,” he tells SX.
“We’re already seeing people affected by the changes that happened last year to private rental subsidy. This is going to drive more people into poverty. One of the key planks of the UN declaration is that to tackle HIV you need to eliminate poverty,” he says. “There’s a year before the $7 co-payment kicks in – and we have clients that go to the GP a lot. We’ve always said you should never have to choose between medicine and food.”
As such, community support is as crucial as ever, a growing challenge in an ever-growing fundraising environment.
“We’ll have to find new ways to raise funds. Once upon a time HIV was front and centre in everybody’s consciousness. Today people say things like “Is that still here? Is HIV still around? Isn’t there a pill for that?
Such sentiments clearly illustrate why the work of Bobby Goldsmith Foundation is as important as ever. And Riddell hopes to cement BGF as a leader in HIV support.
“We’ve always been on the cutting edge of service delivery – and if we can stay there, that would be great.”
VIDEO: Check out this video of Justin Xian sharing his story as part of a 2013 BGF campaign