Executive Director: 1998-2001
It was a blast being the Executive Director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. My first true leadership role saw me living by the beach with my baby twins – they were 1 year and 3 days old when we made the long journey south. As well as learning to drink great coffee, eat well and explore the joys of Victorian Pinot Noirs, I got to work with genuinely cool community groups, politicians and extraordinary doctors and researchers. Australia is founded on a Partnership model of AIDS response and that is part of what made my tie there great. It was not just the remarkable staff (Thank you, and Vale Alan Brotherton), the amazing kick ass groups of sex workers at Scarlet Alliance, drug users at AIVL, NAPWA ad the Indigenous Sista Girls., it was also the bold and brave politicians (from all parties ) and world class researchers and scientists. My biggest shout out has to go to Prof David Cooper – one of the most extraordinary men I had the pleasure to work with, someone who has many lives saved and lived well to his name. And at the same time as working with I also sat at the feet of (& dined at many a table with) the equally brilliant Prof Sue Kippax, learning so much about social science and the importance of uniting all disciplines to make real change.
Just before I left I had the fun task of co-convening the 6th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Melbourne. It was a tough conference to pull off – coming a few weeks after the Twin Towers fell so most of our US delegates pulled out. But we were determined to go ahead and send a message that the growing AIDS crisis in the region demanded urgent attention – and was already stealing more lives daily than that dreadful event. With brilliant co-chairs Profs Dennis Altman (the best Accidental Activist I ever met) and my long-term mentor Rob Moodie we pulled off a fascinating event that led to long term change establishing regional networks of politicians and community groups.