Honouring Australia's LGBTI pioneers
Amongst the honourees at this year’s Queen’s Birthday Awards were a slate of prominent members of the lesbian and gay community, including the late activist Lex Watson and singer Deborah Cheetham.
Cheetham was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, as well as her contribution to the development of indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance.
Well known in operatic circles for her stunning soprano voice, Cheetham recently penned the final part of an operatic trilogy which began with White Baptist Abba Fan, continues with Pecan Summer and finishes with Til the Lady Sings Black.
As an out Aboriginal woman, Cheetham’s story of resilience as a member of the Stolen Generation and coming out as a gay woman to her Baptist family provides a real inspiration for young people thinking about coming out.
Professor Anne Elizabeth Mitchell also picked up an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to community health, particularly through sexual health research, policy development and program delivery to marginalised communities.
Appointed as an adult educator in the AIDS STD unit of the Victorian Health Department in 1988, Mitchell has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Mitchell has worked in sexual health promotion and alcohol and drug prevention programs and was a volunteer with AIDSline and the Victorian AIDS Council.
Most recently Mitchell’s contribution as Manager of the Community Liaison and Education Unit at the Australian Research Centre In Sex, Health and Society has lead to cutting edge research-into-practice projects, notably in HIV education, lesbian health and safe-sex education for young same-sex attracted youth.
The late gay rights campaigner and activist Lex Watson has been appointed a posthumous Member of the Order of Australia. Watson, who passed away last month after a long battle with cancer, was hailed as a pioneer and campaigned for LGBTI issues since 1968.
Founding the Gay Rights Lobby in 1980, which later became the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), the activist also became the first president of ACON to lead the organisation during the height of the AIDS crisis.
And Vaughan Hinton was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the media through television production.
A former Sydneysider Vaughan earned his gay credentials when he marched with pride at the first Mardi Gras, and became a member of the now infamous 78-ers.
Vaughan was also a TV producer for the ABC. In his role as a TV producer he was instrumental in getting the Mardi Gras Parade televised on national TV, executive producing the first broadcasts of the gay pride event on the ABC.