Senior achievers share their stories of 30 years of QuAC at Spring Hill luncheon
Aug22

Senior achievers share their stories of 30 years of QuAC at Spring Hill luncheon

LAST UPDATED // Saturday, 23 August 2014 08:18 Written by // Andrew Shaw

Senior achievers in our community were feted at the Alliance Hotel in Spring Hill today (Aug 22) at a luncheon put on by the Queensland AIDS Council. 

Part of Seniors Week, and hosted by QuAC's director of Healthy Communities Programs Gai Lemon and new executive director Michael Scott, the event recognised the amazing, often unsung achievements that people in our community have made that helped shape the organisations and the lifestyle we enjoy today, both in the gay and straight communities.

Recognised for their contributions were Jill Bolen (perseverance and persistence), Leigh Neighbour lifelong learning), Neil McLucas (performing arts), Patricia Robins (rural and regional life), Trevor Robinson (mentoring and education), Tony Groom (environment and science), Paul McFarlane (preserving history), John Ebert (activism), Maurice Milliner (volunteerism), David Bradford Health and well-being), Ian Byford (fine arts & literature) and Bert Gerbrands (recreation).

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High achievers at the Alliance Hotel: Neil McLucas, Paul McFarlane, Trevor Robinson, Tony Groom, Patricia Robins, John Ebert and Leigh Neighbour.

They shared their stories as part of QuAC’s celebration of its 30th anniversary.

The Alliance Hotel’s basement bar is a significant location, since it is where the AIDS Council formed in 1984.

At that time the venue was a gay bar known as the Ambush Bar, and John Ebert was there at that first meeting.

“It just looked like any other gay bar,” he says. “Except the entrance was through a back doorway so no one could see you come in off the street. There was a stage up in the corner and there were drag shows.

“There had been several meetings up until then when we realised there was this health crisis coming on. We realised we had to do something for ourselves. There were meetings where there was just total panic amongst some in the community. People saying things like, ‘I don’t want to die because I’m gay.’ There was a real fear factor.”

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Founding QuAC member John Ebert.

The meeting elected seven people to its first committee, and formed sub-committees for welfare, education and fundraising.

Ebert said welfare was needed to help those HIV positive people who were incapacitated because of their illness.

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“There were people who looked like they were Biafran refugees in our community. As soon as they were diagnosed with HIV they were told, ‘You’re going to die’. Because that was the language that was used there was no hope. Many people who possibly shouldn’t have died, died because they gave up.”

The homophobic feeling in the community was not helped, in fact it was driven by the state government’s anti-gay rhetoric. But there were allies in the medical profession, and the Catholic order of nuns, the Sisters of Mercy.

“They gave us our first home, in a building they owned in the back streets in Woolloongabba. The little dynamo of a head nun there, Sister Angela Mary Doyle, was one of our greatest allies.”

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Ebert was in his early thirties in those days and says he didn’t believe the pandemic would still be going today.

A state public servant, and out in his workplace, he refused to work at all one morning after Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen made a statement that there were no homosexuals working in the public service.

“So I didn’t work until my supervisor told me I’d made my point and to get back to it,” he says.

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Gai Lemon and Michael Scott.

He says QuAC still has an important role to play in the community and urged gay men to once again heed the message that condoms and safe sex are the best ways of protecting yourself.

In the 1980s, drag performer and activist Toye de Wilde used to make safe sex statements regularly from the stage, and Ebert wishes today’s drags would do the same.

“I would love to see young people come back to the [practice] where if you don’t have a condom, you don’t have sex. It’s not worth it.”

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Helen Daintree, Health Promotion Officer for the Ageing in Diversity Project. Photos: A Shaw

 

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Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw is editor of Queensland Pride.

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