Year in headlines: Brisbane
It was an eventful year for Brisbane’s LGBTI community. Andrew Shaw looks back at the year in headlines.
‘Free speech’ in Gympie
In early 2013 a former Cooloola councillor and the founder of Gympie gun shop Owen Guns failed in an appeal to the High Court on constitutional political freedom of speech grounds after a tribunal fined him for inciting hatred against homosexuals. In 2008, Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found Ron Owen had overstepped the bounds under the state's vilification laws when he appeared in a car with the bumper sticker: ‘Gay Rights? Under God's law the only rights gays have is the right to die.’
Biala faces state cuts
In March, the state government announced cuts to staff at Biala Sexual Health Clinic in Roma Street. Biala was a source of free STI and HIV testing and care for many in the LGBTIQ community and a protest by staff and supporters forced a review of the decision. Six months later, it was announced HIV services would continue, while “non-complex sexual health services” would transfer to GPs and community clinics. Critics said this placed the burden for sexual health on the Commonwealth Medicare system and increased risks for those without Medicare access.
Rudd for marriage equality
In May, Queensland’s celebrated Member for Griffith Kevin Rudd – not yet returned to Labor leadership – announced support for same-sex marriage. “I have come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same-sex marriage,” Rudd, a Christian, said. “I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same-sex marriage.” Prior to this, Rudd made a surprise appearance at The Wickham Hotel at a forum to protest cuts to Biala Sexual Health Clinic.
The Queensland Government launched its E.N.D. H.I.V. campaign in July, which it described as the first whole of population campaign in 25 years. Messages including ‘HIV isn’t a death sentence, but it is a life sentence’ formed the basis of the campaign. The national, gay male targeted ‘Ending HIV’ campaign was rolled out in Qld on December 1, supported by Healthy Communities.
New boss for Healthy Communities
The state’s peak LGBTIQ health organisation Healthy Communities got a new executive director in September. John Mikelsons took over from Paul Martin, who headed HC for nine years. Mikelsons said HC was ready to undertake a new way forward in its relationship with the Health Department, which had defunded HC the previous year, and that HC had a “bright future”. “HIV is a significant health issue that affects our community, particularly gay men. We share common purpose with the government about reducing HIV infections and we want to work closely with them on exactly that goal.” On November 3, the state government announced its new HIV Foundation Queensland, which came into existence on December 1.
Qld AIDS Council returns
On September 26, the Brisbane Gender Clinic under Dr Gale Bearman opened at its new location at Healthy Communities. The same week, Healthy Communities, which began life as the Qld AIDS Council in 1985, announced plans to return to its original name. The announcement sparked debate online, with some voicing concerns that the name focused on only one aspect of the organisation’s work; however, HC responded by saying it was and would remain inclusive. The name change was voted in by members at the AGM on November 19.
[Images] Demonstrators protest against cuts of Biala (top) and John Mikelsons from Healthy Communities (above). Photos: Photos: Andrew Shaw; Anthony Smith