The Positive Living Centre

David Menadue succeeded Les Taylor as convenor of PLWA Victoria in October 1989. He worked to raise the needs of PLWHAs with VAC/GMHC President Peter Grant, General Manager Jim Hyde and the members of the JAC at every opportunity. He remembers Frank Shinnick as being a particular support to him at JAC meetings, where he would ‘help me to thump a point across’.59 Indeed, Shinnick – who died from AIDS in 1996 – is remembered for ‘his amiable and gentle nature (except when roused at a Board meeting!)’ when he ‘was not averse to thumping the table and demanding a better deal for resources’ for PLWA.60

The major focus of Menadue’s time in the role became the search for a site to establish a community centre for people living with AIDS. A working group had already been established to research the need for a centre and prepare applications for funding, and Les Taylor and Keith Harbour had been instrumental in securing a funding commitment from the state government. They were on the hunt for

just a friendly space where people with HIV could drop in, chat about the latest treatments, get to know other positive people, develop friendships, trying to reduce some of the stigma they were feeling, some of the hopelessness they were feeling.61

The search for an appropriate site to establish the centre was to be long and exhaustive. Some thirty sites were considered before a suitable site on Dandenong Road in Caulfield was found. However, the plan was met with intense opposition from local residents, who feared that a community centre for HIV positive men could damage the peaceful neighbourhood, claiming that they would ‘host wild, noisy parties and throw needles over the fence!’62 It was clear to PLWA Victoria that the major issue was a fear that the value of surrounding houses in the neighbourhood would be adversely affected. Needless to say, this response reflected the ignorance and prejudice of widely held views about HIV at that time. Two years on from the Grim Reaper campaign the spectre of AIDS still loomed large, and despite education and awareness campaigns, HIV/AIDS still struck fear into the hearts of the general population. The VAC/GMHC called a press conference to bring attention to the issue, and David Menadue received what he later described as ‘a baptism of fire’ into the world of the Melbourne media, with newspaper and television journalists converging on the proposed site to cover the story of a local community at loggerheads with HIV positive people.63 With Joan Golding, a long-term active member of the VAC community, Menadue defended the need for the HIV positive community to have a safe and caring place in which to meet and support each other.

Despite PLWA Victoria’s best efforts to reassure the community, it was not to be. The local council rejected the planning application, citing trivial reasons such as parking concerns, and PLWA Victoria was forced to continue the search. Fortunately, another site – perhaps even more suitable – was later found at 46 Acland Street, St Kilda.64 The Positive Living Centre was officially opened by St Kilda Mayor Cr. John Spierings on 18 April 1993. Some two hundred people attended the launch, which was celebrated with the release of balloons, champagne and entertainment.65 The opening of the centre after five years in the planning marked the beginning of a new era for PLWA Victoria and for positive people throughout Victoria.


References


Positive Living Centre opening newspaper

Solicitor David Owen and VAC/GMHC General Manager Jim Hyde with the keys to the new Positive Living Centre in 1993.

AIDS Council News, January 1993

David Menadue
Joan Golding.bmp

David Menadue and Joan Golding (below), who together campaigned for a community centre for people living with HIV/AIDS.