Setting the foundation for success

While there were difficulties in running two separate organisations in tandem, some of which would manifest more critically in the near future, the two organisations grew in leaps and bounds, supported whole-heartedly by the gay community.

The list of achievements accomplished by the VAC in 1985 was phenomenal and set the foundation for success in years to come. Within 12 months of becoming incorporated, the VAC managed to secure funding from the state government for the establishment of the Gay Men’s Community Health Centre and funds to hire staff for both the VAC office and the GMHC office. The VAC quickly outgrew the King William Street office (a place some affectionately remember as ‘the bunker’) and by mid-1985 it had found a new home at 59–63 Rupert Street in Collingwood. Warren Talbot was succeeded as office co-ordinator first by Marcus O’Donnell, then Laurence Carter. During this period the full-time staff at the VAC and GMHC increased from one to seven. By the time the first VAC/GMHC Annual Report came out in 1985 the staff positions were:

Co-ordinator: Laurence Carter

Information Officer: Panayiota Kai

Receptionist/typist: Luci Perinotto

GMHC Program Manager: Monica Morcos

GMHC Community Welfare Officer: Tony Collins

GMHC Health Education Officer: Bruce Parnell

GMHC Receptionist/typist: Jacqui Nelson

During the first year of operation as the VAC, there were a series of working groups that each focused on different aspects of AIDS education, care and support. These were:

Education Working Group

Support Group

Unions and Workplace Group

Legal Rights and Discrimination Group

VAC Fundraising Group

Regions Working Group

VAC Public Relations Group

Research/Ethical Group

The structure of the VAC, and later the VAC/GMHC, continued to operate along these lines, with dedicated working groups – later referred to as programs – addressing areas of need within the epidemic. These working groups changed and adapted their activities as different circumstances arose within the organisations and within the communities they were working with.

However, the two major areas of concern which remained of fundamental importance to the organisations’ philosophies and aims were the themes of support and education. Over the next thirty years the VAC and GMHC remained dedicated to providing care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and developing educational awareness of the disease’s transmission and prevention.

To Antibody Testing Vignette


AIDS information for workers booklet

By 1985 the VAC encompassed a series of working groups that each focused on different aspects of AIDS education, care and support, including a Unions and Workplace Group. AIDS information for media workers, produced by the VAC in November 1985.

Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Safe Sex Sisters

Groups such as Fantom Frangers and the Safe Sex Sisters, pictured here in 1985, started spreading the safe sex message in the early 1980s.

Bill O’Loughlin

Condon the Clown

Condo the Clown, early VAC AIDS awareness marketing.

Phil Carswell