We recount the ten biggest stories of the 2011 year, as seen in express magazine.
NZAF appoints new head – January
Throughout 2010, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation struggled with criticisms of its leadership and direction, culminating in the shocking news that new HIV diagnoses had reached an all-time high. So in January 2011, when Shaun Robinson took over the reins as executive director, he had a lot of work to do and the community’s eye firmly on him. Despite 25 years’ worth of work in social justice, it was Shaun’s work with Presbyterian Support East Coast and his heterosexuality that caused a bit of an uproar before he even started.
Shaun responded by stating, “NZAF is not a one-man band. I understand the concern that I’m straight and the major at-risk population is gay, but remember that the NZAF is driven by gay men and driven by the population that’s most at risk.” Since then, Shaun has tackled the job head on, working towards closer relationships with HIV advocacy organisations, increasing the reach of Get It On! and keeping lines of communication open, including writing for express!
Blooming Bulbs attacked – January
No one can forget the harrowing scene of Juliet Leigh and Lindsay Curnow’s burnt out home business that was razed to the ground in late January. express visited the site just after the event and we can’t forget the smell, nor the weight of sadness that overcame the area. The local community and GLBT community alike were shocked – and Juliet and Lindsay devastated – to know that a person could want to harm two unassuming women on account of their sexuality (the graffitied “dikes” and “qeers” [sic] let everyone know just how intelligent the arsonist was).
The GLBT community rallied around Blooming Bulbs to get them back on their feet, but some months later, the women’s car was attacked again, prompting them to move to the safety and community of Auckland’s Pt Chevalier.
MoH recognises HIV advocacy groups – February
The ground-breaking “Miller Report” into HIV services in New Zealand was published in 2010, but proved fruitful for Body Positive, Positive Women and INA this year when each organisation was given $150,000 in funding from the ministry of health. Now, Body Positive is fulfilling a years-long goal of extending their reach out to the Northland and Midland areas of the North Island, through a roadshow-style education tour. Body Positive, Positive Women and INA are all on a year contract that expires at the end of 2011 – they will have to provide interim reports about work done and be audited on outcomes – but Body Positive’s Bruce Kilmister says, “We hope that future funding will reflect the quality and amount of work we do for our members”.
Outgames outshines – March
The hills were alive with the sight of rainbows in March, when the second Asia Pacific Outgames touched down in capital city Wellington. Thousands of people from all over the world visited Godzone to compete in sports that ranged from bridge to diving, running to ten-pin bowling. A full programme of events, exhibitions and social gatherings brought the fun and vibrancy of our community to the people of Wellington and connections were made between people from all over the world. The groundbreaking human rights conference brought people of all creeds together to talk about GLBT equality and the lives of GLBT worldwide were better understood. Outgames was one of the truly defining events of our community – not just in 2011, but in our collective history.
express joins the 500 club – May
In May, express turned 20 years and 500 issues old! An absolute slog of an issue began months before the big event, with researcher Anne Speir (and a few volunteers / cronies!) reading through every issue, picking out the big stories of the last two decades. With a lot of familiar stories and even more familiar faces, what emerged was a pattern of community engagement and development, the rise, fall and redemption of Auckland’s GLBT festival, the charting of HIV/AIDS and the debilitating effect it had on the community, as well as a bit of middle-aged spread that began to appear! The 500th issue was a celebration of stories, photos and scene pics of old – here’s to the next 500!
Auckland Pride? – May
The death Hero has hung over the heads of Auckland’s GLBT community since its demise in the early noughties. Now, consultation is underway to bring a GLBT festival back to Auckland, after a number of public meetings got the ball rolling and people talking. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye was one of the people who led the charge, after a constituent approached her asking for the issue of a GLBT celebration being tabled. “I feel strongly that a larger celebration will benefit Auckland by raising awareness of the community,” she said in May.
John Key gets pink and shirty – May
Members of Q-Youth Nelson and Rainbow Youth Auckland, the groups responsible for anti-homophobic bullying initiative Pink Shirt Day, met with the Prime Minister in May to discuss homophobic bullying in schools. Olympic speed skater and coming out advocate Blake Skjellerup said, “The experience for me has almost been like a fairy tale. To have an audience with him, and to be discussing such important issues pertaining to the development and future of youth in this country is extremely comforting.” We await follow up on this issue from the Government.
25 years of freedom – July
It was a year of anniversaries, but none could be more poignant than the 25th anniversary of homosexual law reform, which came into effect on 11 July 1986. express travelled to Wellington to interview bill proponent Fran Wilde, Gay Task Force founding member Bill Logan and photographer David Hindley to find out more about the long, painful road to law reform. From tales of John Banks’ tirades to town hall takeovers, the campaign had its ups, downs and downright laughs. Each 11 July, don’t forget to say Happy Birthday to your freedom!
Legalise Love launches – August
“Expect more. Expect change. Expect to Legalise Love,” said the teaser press release before Legalise Love launched in August. We had an inkling as to what the Legalise Love campaign entailed, but waited eagerly for our interview with spokesperson Duncan Hope to find out more. “Legalise Love is a human rights campaign focussing on raising awareness and gauging the level of support for changing the legislative inequalities facing New Zealand’s queer community,” says Duncan. “We have two key points of interest for this campaign – raising awareness for marriage equality and equal adoption rights for same-sex couples.” LegaliseLove has struggled to maintain awareness and relevance since then, with a particular lull in communication during the election campaign, when many expected the group to come out strong. We wait eagerly for the group to gear up properly in 2012.
National’s top ten re-elected – November
On 16 November, just before the 2011 general election, express writer Chris Banks’ story “What National’s top ten think of you” was released, detailing what the likes of John Key, Bill English, Lockwood Smith and even out MP Chris Finlayson think of the GLBT community. Hint: it wasn’t good. Almost 3000 shares and a host of outrage later, both sides of the political camp had virulently stated their opinions of the John Key-led government. In the end, National were re-elected in a veritable landslide, while one million voting age New Zealanders are reported not to have voted.
Thanks to all for the use of photos, in particular Alex Efimov, David Hindley and Tux Hika.