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LGBT community fights against push to have Fred Hollows on $5 bill
Jan29

LGBT community fights against push to have Fred Hollows on $5 bill

LAST UPDATED // Friday, 29 January 2016 13:10 Written by // Rachel Cook

The push to have Fred Hollows immortalised on the Australian five dollar note has caused concern in the LGBT community.

Hollows, an eye surgeon who saved the eyesight of countless people globally, also had controversial views on people who had AIDS at the height of the epidemic in Australia.
Hollows suggested that people diagnosed with AIDS should be quarantined and the gay community had ‘hijacked’ the debate on HIV/AIDS.

According to The Australian's Martin Thomas, Hollows stated that some homosexuals were "recklessly spreading the virus"; therefore, the safe sex campaign was an inadequate way of dealing with the issue.

In an article published in The Canberra Times in 1992, after backlash from the gay community over his comments, Hollows continued to stand by his views. The article states:

‘The eye specialist said on Monday the gay community had "hijacked" Australia's AIDS policy and had promoted AIDS as affecting everyone, when it was basically a homosexual problem in Australia.

‘He said many AIDS-infected homosexuals were spreading the deadly virus recklessly and might have to be quarantined to prevent infection getting into vulnerable rural Aboriginal communities and wiping them out.’

The paper quoted Hollows as saying:

“I know of the devastation of AIDS in Africa and I don't want that to happen to Aboriginal people in Australia. Options previously never discussed must now be discussed.”

AIDS researchers at the time said Hollow’s statements were “insulting, naïve, and ill-informed.”

The campaign featuring prominent Australians pushing to have Hollows placed on the five dollar bill carries the hashtag #‎FredOnTheFiver‬ and is garnering heavy support with many agreeing Hollows deserves to be recognised in this way.

While members of the LGBT community are praising Hollows and The Fred Hollows Foundation for their work, many are still hurt by Hollow’s comments and oppose his placement on the five dollar bill.

In response to the Foundation’s campaign many have taking to social media to express their views:

Garrett Prestage wrote:

‘His foundation does good things. But, his attacks on the gay community were hateful and bigoted. To honor him in that way, in the full knowledge that he so actively and hurtfully abused one particular section of the Australian population, especially at a time when it was so vulnerable, would be an ongoing insult, and I suspect the ensuing controversy would do little good to the work of the foundation.’

Ian McMillan also wrote:

‘I can't understand the beatification of this vile old homophobe. Ita Buttrose you should be ashamed of yourself. This man suggested, at a time of great and traumatic grief, that people with HIV shoud be quarantined on an island somewhere. I have very unhappy memories of this time, when friends were dying and a hostile and ignorant press was heartlessly vilifying gay men. Some of the most hurtful statements were those of Fred Hollows. Using his high profile position to openly vilify a traumatised community remains one of the low points of the AIDS epidemic in Australia. I have not forgiven him.’

The Fred Hollows Foundation has responsed via Facebook, they wrote:

‘Professor Hollows was a humanitarian and applied his egalitarian perspective to his work on eye-health right around the world. He did not discriminate between anyone with vision impairment, no matter their background.

Fred always spoke his mind, a quality that made him such a powerful advocate for many social justice causes. However, he was far from perfect as an individual and some of his positions were wrong, something The Fred Hollows Foundation acknowledges. This includes his views on HIV/AIDS.

During the HIV/AIDS crisis in Australia in the early 1990s, Professor Hollows spoke out about fighting the disease and its spread. At this time Fred lost two of his nephews to this terrible disease. His views caused controversy at the time, but he believed he was helping to save lives. Our knowledge of HIV/AIDS is now better and public and medical opinion has moved on.

The Fred Hollows Foundation works to restore sight to millions of people around the world regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. We are a proudly secular organisation that works to keep the work of the late Professor Fred Hollows alive around the world.

As Fred himself said: “Every eye is an eye.”’

However, some do not feel the response is adequate. Jo Harrison wrote:

‘The Foundation needs to openly acknowledge what Fred said about people living with HIV and his suggestion about quarantining homosexuals. Telling us he was a 'man who spoke his mind' is completely inadequate.

The Foundation needs to make a strong statement openly acknowledging what was said, stating that it was wrong and contained incorrect facts about HIV, retracting the statement, apologising to the LGBTI and HIV communities and to all those involved in the fight against this plague that meant that the gay community's approach to safe sex education saved thousands of lives, and seek to offer redress for this.

Otherwise there will continue to be posts across social media and LGBTI organisations and sites that ask why we would support a campaign that puts the face of a man we recall as homophobic, bigoted, and dangerously wreckless in his approach to us. This cannot be swept under the carpet. If you want this campaign to succeed you need to engage with the LGBTI and HIV community and organisations.’

WATCH Joel Edgerton in the push to put Hollows on the fiver.

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Rachel Cook

Rachel Cook

Rachel Cook has worked in both the queer and mainstream media for over a decade. Before becoming editor of Melbourne Community Voice, she was a producer for ABC radio. Between 2008 and 2012, Rachel was the editor of CHERRIE. In 2010 her book, A History of Queer Australia, was published and is currently in use in high schools across Australia.

Comments (21)

  • Chad

    03 May 2016 at 17:30 |
    Honestly, I think what he said was obviously out of line but at that time there wasn't enough information about AIDS/HIV, you have to take into consideration he also lost two nephews to the virus .. he was just acting out like any normal human being would, i think if he was alive today he's views would be quite different. at the end of the day you can't judge someone off one thing he said, he has done amazing work here in Australia and all around the world.. the foundation he set up has now restored eye sight to well over 2 million in over 25 countries.. he was the first person to actually give a shit and go into indigenous communities and address the appalling eye problems they where facing!

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  • Julia

    27 February 2016 at 16:26 |
    I wonder how christians and conservatives would react if the person nominated for the bill had made statement maligning or attacking christianity (or at least perceived by them to be so given so many conservative commentators these days view anything short of a declaration of 'jesus is my light' to be an attack on them). My guess is it would go down badly. You only have to look at how Miranda Devine and several other conservative mouthpieces in the murdoch press and their friends in the comments section reacted to the appointment of David Morrison as Australian of the year to know how they would react.

    In fact, why is that conservatives practically line up to defend people who insult, denigrate and vilify the LGBT community, often trying to mask the bigotry with "disagree" to make it seem more mild. If Mr. Hollows comments had been racist or sexists they would be no question of putting him on the $5 bill. Why is the LGBT community fair game. (Although mind you, John Flynn is on the $20 bill, and there are some people who contend that he made a number of racist statements during his time as head of the flying doctors service).

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  • Sally

    02 February 2016 at 21:59 |
    What a laughably ignorant comment. Let's begin with a few famous gay figures who contributed more to society than petty small minded little homophobes like you could ever hope to: Let's start with Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt and civil right leader Barbara Jordan. And move on to artists and scientists of note like Michelangelo. Alan Turing. Leonardo Da Vinci. Oscar Wilde. James Baldwin. Francis Bacon. And oh this is getting boring as being LGBTI or straight or however you identify has NOTHING to do with the measure of benevolence or greatness.

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    • Julia

      03 February 2016 at 02:09 |
      Thanks Sally. You are correct. LGBT people do not have to prove benevolence in order to be able to live with dignity and not be subject to bigotry and discrimination. Unfortunately Steve, a self confessed homophobe doesn't seem to understand that.

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    • Sally

      02 February 2016 at 22:12 |
      This should have shown up as a reply to "Steve's" homophobic comment asking what great benevolent deeds has "your ilk" given freely to humanity?

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  • Eric Glare

    01 February 2016 at 14:55 |
    Hallows' comments were pure homophobia and time has only cemented that they were born of prejudice. We didn’t listen to him and we proved he was wrong. Not lightly wrong but exactly obtuse. We established the exact opposite of his call for quarantine, for patriarchal medical control – a responsive informed campaign within our communities, we worked together with the medical establishment and we became the country who was and is the envy of the global AIDS response. We contained our epidemic. We became the template for successful containment. Other countries look at us with regret that they listen to homophobes like Hallows. Many like the US still have far higher rates of infection because people are not connected to care but stigma and condemnations of failure keep them away. It is very difficult to find Hallows’ comments because it is missing from conference transcripts where everyone else’s is there. No doubt his foundation is not proud for them to be viewed. Even they understand that his AIDS comments continue to undermine the hero status they would like to propagate about Aboriginal eye care. Hollows is the arch-villain of the Australian AIDS response and he could be on a bank note next to other crims like Ned Kelly.

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  • Rebecca

    31 January 2016 at 23:39 |
    Fred Hollows was a kiwi..born in Dunedin NZ..just saying...

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  • sammy

    30 January 2016 at 23:09 |
    The thing is a very large number of gay men were spreading it recklessly. He was right.

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    • Brad Red

      02 February 2016 at 02:39 |
      The truth is in the Early days of HIV or GRID as it was first known, the causes of how it was spread and how infection occurred where not truly known.

      How can a sector of society be reckless in spreading an infection when science was at odds with exactly what was to blame.

      Yes I grew up through the TV campaigns of the Grim Reaper, but I also heard the moths of it was going to be passed on via mosquitos similar to Ross River, there was the scare of saliva and infection from that. We now know that contraction of HIV from both of these is near impossible.

      Fred Hollows held a position of power within the community, he was a well respected Foctor of high profile during this time. He had a duty to educate a community rather than cause random panic and bias.

      I find it horrific that a man who can be remembered for so much good was also responsible for spreading the misinformation about HIV that was to cause Stigmatism to a group within our society who at their lowest needed the support of the medical community. Not only to help those infected try to survive, we risked loosing an entire generation of gay men when this epidemic hit. For a medical practitioner to show such Calais actions is appalling and not something that should be rewarded by placing him on our $5 note.

      Let alone the fact he was not actually Australian, he is a New Zealender.

      Keep the $5not as it is or at least find an Australian who has something worthy to honor to put on the opposing side to the Queen.

      reply

  • Steve

    30 January 2016 at 10:46 |
    Wow!!! Fred Hollows saves the eyesight of an incalculable number of people around the world, thus giving them a chance for a better life and you people are upset because he disagreed with your deviancy. What is the collectively greatest act that you people have ever achieved as opposed to this one individual? You should be ashamed of yourselves...

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    • mrg

      27 February 2016 at 15:47 |
      Well said, Steve.

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      • Julia

        27 February 2016 at 16:01 |
        Not well said at all. If you'd read the other comments on this thread you see that Steve's statement is shallow, bigoted and easily disputed. I'm amazed at the number of people who show up here to troll the sight an leave homophobic remarks. And As Sally pointed out, There are many LGBT people who's acheivements have far outweighed those of Mr. Hollows. Conservatism is shameful.

        reply

    • Julia

      30 January 2016 at 20:13 |
      LGBT people are not deviant. That's you displaying your blatant homophobia. Bigots cannot excuse their bigotry by giving it the label "disagree." It's bigotry and should not be rewarded and is not excused by one's benevolence. The negative attitudes displayed here stigmatize, vilify and belittle LGBT people and HIV suffers and do nothing expect promote ignorance and hatred.

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    • BF

      30 January 2016 at 19:50 |
      Plenty of doctors save lives and don't say things like he did. Some perspective on his contribution is needed. he wasn't a saint and there are plenty of more worthy people than him.

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      • Steve

        02 February 2016 at 17:37 |
        Ok, so he is not a saint as you say. So what great benevolent deeds has your ilk given freely to humanity???

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  • Greg Kelly

    29 January 2016 at 22:16 |
    Ive been positive for over 20 years and buried over 800 friends. Some things really annoy me
    1) Stop clumping everybody in the LGBTIQ community as having one opinion.
    2) Some men DID recklessly spread the virus AND STILL DO!
    3) It was 1992 there was many an extreme point of view spoken of at that time. Where are the leadership skills in 2016? Witch hunting is a sport! Forgiveness is a leadership skill.
    4) Ive seen many a gay man hijack agencies for their own agenda. Nepotism is endemic in the AIDS industry
    5) Ive seen many a quote taken out of context.
    6) Alot of people that weren't old enough to live through this period on time have an opinion based on today's morality. This is bullshit! We lived through a war. Guns and bullets were firing right above our heads. Some of those bullets took many lives some just left scars both physical and mental.
    I believe there are more pressing matters to get worked up about Let the dead rest in peace.

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    • Eric Glare

      01 February 2016 at 15:05 |
      Stigma takes a long time to die Greg Kelly. You should have learnt one thing from your experience - it takes two to get infected with HIV. People who call out others for " recklessly spread the virus" are usually not willing to acknowledge their own risk and their own role in their sexual health. The negative person who exposes themselves is just a reckless as anyone else. And today most infections occur between people who think they and their partners are negative. Today you undermine sexual health by scapegoating someone else for being reckless when everyone must take responsibility. Take responsibility for your own risks. Stop undermining HIV prevention in era of end HIV.

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    • BF

      30 January 2016 at 19:49 |
      800 friends? just the first of the errors in your statement.

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    • Ian Rose

      30 January 2016 at 13:04 |
      Great comment Greg,
      If you have the time and inclination it'd be great to see an article written by you expanding on this perspective if you could get anyone to publish it

      reply

    • Cameron

      30 January 2016 at 08:53 |
      I totally agree with you, your points make complete sense .

      reply

  • Ken Davis

    29 January 2016 at 21:21 |
    the Fred Hollows Foundation response is inadequate, given he oganised a conference with Brendan Nelson and Bruce Shepherd to denounce the AIDS physicians, call for indefinite quarantine of people with HIV, attacked homosexuals, very narrowly defined "innocent victims" of HIV, and cited Mao and general Giap (wrongly) in calling for all sex workers to be executed, and all "drug äbusers" to be locked up.

    reply

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