AIDS Quilt Convenor Honoured
Philip Diment’s work as convenor of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project and service to the community was recognised in this year’s Queens Birthday Honours List. Alex Dunkin reports.
It has been 20 years since Philip Diment first began his work and involvement in the LGBT community and it has now culminated to being recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The award – Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia – is in recognition of Diment’s service to the community as convener of the Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt Project which, in 2011, with the help of many supporters and donors, was relocated to a permanent home in the Powerhouse Museum.
The quilt itself is an evocative record of the discovery of HIV AIDS in Australia and the destructive impact on the lives of young same-sex attracted men in the 1980s and 90s. The multi-panel quilt depicts a time when ignorance toward the gay community was rife and the mostly 20- and 30-year-old men were left isolated with little help and potentially no friends as many had already passed away.
Preserving the memory of the quilt sparked Diment into action to ensure the initial impact HIV and AIDS had on the community is not forgotten.
“What inspired me was when I saw it during the last full display at the Gay Games in 2002,” Diment tells SX. “Unless something was done, it was going to end up in someone’s garage somewhere and not secured for the future.
“People who have not lived through that will not understand the discrimination, the doubts and the fears of those times. There’s a lot of friends who I know who died, including my brother, so it was really a response to safeguard their memories forever.”
Though HIV/AIDS is not viewed in the same light as it was when the quilt was first started, Diment says the project and what it represents is as important as ever.
“I think it’s moved away from being a political statement to being a memorial and a symbol of an era, so the social and memorial significance these days is a lot stronger.”
Diment found receiving the award an overwhelming recognition of community involvement which began with his attendance at the Sydney Mardi Gras. From then, Diment would take on several key roles including as Director of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras from 1991 to 1993, and the creator of the Habour Party in 1996. All the while Diment has built up his own architecture business in Surry Hills gaining even more experience in design and project management.
“I’ve always had my architecture career but I’ve always had something else and I think it was directed simply to the care and concern for helping support the gay and lesbian community,” Diment says. “Every little bit helps so it doesn’t matter if people do one thing once a year or a few hours during the year.”
Diment emphasised the work he completes with the community and his recent award are achievements that he could not fulfil on his own. The work with the quilt and finding a secure home for it he attributes to the assistance others have provided him over the time.
“To get it into the museum required raising $90,000,” Diment says. “So there’s a thank you for all those people who were involved and even people who came up with donations.”
[Pictured] Philip Diment AM (inset), recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for his work as convenor of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project, pictured here on display in The Domain in 1992.