David Williams Fund

 

The David Williams Fund was created in memory of David Williams, who recognised the need of people living with HIV/AIDS to have access to financial assistance.

 

The David Williams Fund has been a part of the VAC/GMHC for over 25 years. The fund was established to provide financial assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS, in memory of David Williams who died from AIDS in 1986. David and his brother worked closely with the organisation’s Support Program, and recognised that something needed to be done to financially assist people living with HIV/AIDS.

The David Williams Fund (DWF) was initially established by a group of trustees including close friends and family of David Williams. It became a working group of the VAC in 1987 when the trustees requested help to meet increasing demand. Within the first year of operation, the fund received 91 applications and dispensed grants totalling $19,289.1 The DWF was a lifeline for many PLWHAs who were unable to work due to illness and struggled to meet the costs of daily living on top of prohibitive medical costs. The fund provided emergency assistance to cover costs such as household bills, rent and mortgage payments, food and vitamin supplements. Grants were also available for the families of PLWHAs to pay for funerals.

 

Cheque presentation to the David Williams Fund after the 11th Annual Laird Auction in 1995. Ron Watkins (second from right) and Bradley Engelmann (right). Living Positive Victoria

Cheque presentation to the David Williams Fund after the 11th Annual Laird Auction in 1995. Ron Watkins (second from right) and Bradley Engelmann (right). Living Positive Victoria

 

From its initial establishment the DWF grew and the scope of financial assistance available also expanded. While there were years when applications to the fund far outstripped the available resources, it endured, providing countless HIV positive people with the financial assistance many desperately needed. Money for the fund was raised primarily through the auction of donated goods and services at the annual Laird Auction and the sale of Red Ribbons on World AIDS Day.

In 1995, the VAC/GMHC celebrated ‘the most successful Red Ribbon campaign yet’, when $75,000 raised through the sale of Red Ribbons was given to the DWF.2

In 1999, the VAC/GMHC began an important working relationship with MAC Cosmetics, which became a major sponsor of the David Williams Fund. MAC Cosmetics has been incredibly generous over the years, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DWF through its philanthropic foundation, the MAC AIDS Fund. All the proceeds of the sale of MAC Cosmetics’ Viva Glam lipstick range go to the MAC AIDS Fund and are distributed to organisations around the world working to support those affected by HIV/AIDS.3 Following the establishment of this supportive relationship, the DWF processed over 900 applications for financial assistance and distributed nearly $113,000 in the 1999-2000 financial year, including disbursements for food vouchers, white goods, furniture and rental assistance. To deal with the amount of coordination this involved, Michele Roberts was employed as a dedicated DWF Officer.4

By the late 2000s, the fund had further expanded its scope, in line with the changing nature of the epidemic. Instead of dealing with applications for funeral cover, by 2008 the fund had established a study assistance scheme aimed at helping HIV positive people gain the skills and confidence required to return to the workforce. For many PLWHAs, receiving assistance to return to study gave them enhanced job opportunities, leading to greater independence and less reliance on financial support services.5

Today the DWF continues to provide much needed support to PLWHAs with its Financial Counselling and Referral Service, which includes training in budgetary skills and debt negotiation, and the Study Assist Project, which helped nearly 40 clients in the 2011-2012 financial year. Assistance with living expenses has become an important issue in recent years, and the fund has been working with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) in supporting PLWHAs who are at risk of homelessness.6 The fund continues its Financial Assistance Service, which includes food vouchers and support for rent and medical fees. As the David Williams Fund continues to expand, it remains an essential service to those living with HIV/AIDS who need a helping hand.

 

Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson presenting a cheque from the MAC AIDS Fund to the David Williams Fund in 2006.

Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson presenting a cheque from the MAC AIDS Fund to the David Williams Fund in 2006.


References