Conception to incorporation

The events of November 1984 were catalysts in terms of government response to the AIDS epidemic, however, they also served to remind the gay community and the VAAC of the importance of the work they were doing and would need to continue.

With government involvement came funding – something that the VAAC was in critical need of – but also stringent requirements. The government was uncomfortable providing money to an unincorporated, volunteer-based, politically active community group – which is what the VAAC was. In November 1984 it was decided to call a public meeting, inviting members of the gay community and print media to attend to discuss the future directions of the VAAC. Three thousand flyers were printed and distributed and it was anticipated that more than 500 people would attend. 37 At a meeting of the Management Committee on 5 December 1984, the VAAC resolved to change its name to the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), become a membership-based organisation and seek incorporation. By establishing more of a structure, adopting a defined purpose and becoming incorporated, the VAC would be able to formally interact with government and more easily receive government funding, as well as donations and bequests. The public meeting was held the following day at the YMCA auditorium on Elizabeth Street. The gay community of Victoria endorsed this new structure and the incorporation of the VAC was put into motion. 38 From the very start the VAC was an organisation set up by members of the gay community, for members of the gay community. While it did not exclude anyone, and grew to include services for people living with HIV/AIDS regardless of their gender or sexuality, it was, and still is, an organisation created and nurtured by the gay community. It was also an organisation that was, from the very beginning, supported and run by volunteers. ‘The AIDS Council particularly was run by a huge number of volunteers’, reflects Bill O’Loughlin:

And they actually ran it. That had a huge impact on the Melbourne gay community in terms of their engagement with the epidemic and their ability to be part of the response. 39

Even as the organisation grew and began to employ paid staff, the importance of volunteers could not be underestimated. Throughout the early years of growth and development, volunteers ‘were always seen as the core of the organisation’. 40

With funding, an office space in King William Street, Fitzroy was acquired and one staff member – Warren Talbot, an experienced gay activist – was hired as office co-ordinator. Talbot became the first full-time employee of a gay community HIV/AIDS organisation in Australia. 41 A few weeks later, the newly elected President of the VAC, Phil Carswell, announced, ‘The VAC has reached take off point. We have mobilised a significant section of our community’. 42

Purposes of the Victorian AIDS Council Incorporated

From the first Annual Report, 1985

  1. To help stop the spread of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and related illnesses, and generally to promote the health of gay men and women.
  2. To educate, promote and encourage the adoption of sexual practices which minimise the sexual transmission of diseases, especially AIDS.
  3. To assist people with AIDS or related illnesses, and those at risk thereof, and their lovers and friends to make provisions for their welfare and for emotional and social support.
  4. To lobby government to assist and participate in the achievement of those purposes and to promote and encourage the philosophy of self-help.
  5. To encourage, assist and promote medical and scientific research into the causes, prevention and cure of AIDS and related illnesses.
  6. To take any action and do anything necessary for or conductive or incidental to the preservation or extension of the rights and liberties of gay men and women, especially in the context of social reactions to AIDS and related illnesses.
  7. To receive donations or grants and bequests from persons and government to assist in the achievement of these purposes.
  8. To carry on trading activities, to buy and sell real property, and do all lawfully things necessary for or conductive or coincidental to the achievement of these purposes.
  9. To join, co-operate with or assist other person or groups pursuing the same or similar purposes or any of them.

References


Motion to form VAC is passed

The motion to form the Victorian AIDS Council is officially passed at a public meeting on 6 December 1984.

From left: Phil Carswell, Adam Carr and Jamie Gardiner.

Phil Carswell

Adam Carr speech

The speech delivered by Adam Carr at the meeting to establish the Victorian AIDS Council later appeared in Outrage under the heading ‘We deserve to live’.

Adam Carr