Daniel Alderman

NTAC / NTAHC 2000 – 2016

    It took a number of years to negotiate Liaison Officers with the police – from meeting in the back of dark cafés and them not wanting to be known – to the fact that we had the Commissioner of Police sitting at the table with us to negotiate those projects.

    I first got involved in July or August of 2000 when I started working as the youth and beats officer for a period of maybe four or five months. The Council was located at 8 Manton Street. The building doesn’t exist anymore.  It got pulled down a couple of months ago.

     So I did outreach to the beats: Casuarina Beach during the day and outreach of a night twice a week.  And we ran a youth group for young people, young gay men mainly.

    I guess during the course of that period of employment – I ended up in a hospital and very sick at the end of that – but during the course of that time in my first involvement and over the next couple years being a volunteer, I did some research into homophobia based violence and that helped lead to the first GLLO [Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers] project with the police force. So that was part of working at NTAHC as well, throughout that period.  That was done with myself and my partner but it was also done as partly my part-time work and partly my volunteer work at NTAHC.  It took a number of years to negotiate Liaison Officers with the police –  from meeting in the back of dark cafés and them not wanting to be known – to the fact that we had the Commissioner of Police sitting at the table with us to negotiate those projects.

    A lot of gay and lesbian people don’t feel necessarily comfortable accessing police or don’t report violence or domestic violence or homophobia, so there’s been successful piloting projects around the country where it’s been shown that if people have somebody within the police force that’s an identified person that they can speak to, then they’re more inclined to speak to that person and report incidences.

    Michael Scott was my boss. Chris Day was the ED.  He was a bit of a character.  And a priest was the Reverend Brother Des Cox or something like that.  I don’t know his surname.  He had his Ministry or his church or whatever out at Humpty Doo.  Neil Ludvigsen was vice president, I believe.  David Taylor, being Daisy May, had previously been involved in the organisation and that was maybe a year or two before I arrived in town.  That was that period over 2000.  I was sick in hospital with an AIDS-defining illness and the executive director at the time came to me and asked me to resign from my job because they couldn’t afford to pay me.  So that wasn’t necessarily a very pleasant time, just before Christmas.  But I became involved again about 18 months after that I suppose.

    Before I moved to Darwin – I lived in Sydney and I became involved with organisations in Sydney through my work, through social research and HIV and that first started in 1991.  So by that point I’d been positive for five years and I started working in the field, became president of the Positive Living Centre in Sydney, had presented papers at conferences on being positive, or research that we’d done, and I worked on a number of national projects.  I really enjoyed it and I wanted to be able to give back: I wanted to work in the field, particularly around providing a space for youth to feel comfortable.  So as we know we have the highest rates of suicide amongst young gay people so – those sorts of social justice issues were really important to me. 

    I guess at that point in 2000 the main issue was funding.  We’d get called into the office on a Friday and we’d be told “we didn’t know if we’d have any money to pay you next week”.  So that was always an ongoing issue for that first four or five months that I worked here.  Obviously it’s in a much better, stable position today, but it was an ongoing issue for maybe three or four years.  So after I left in 2000 I came back as a volunteer and I did stuff as a volunteer for Pride and I did stuff as a volunteer for the organisation.  And then I started employment again in 2003.

    It became the AIDS and Hepatitis Council throughout that course of my employment, that second course of my employment.  So I started in the March of 2003 I think, and Frank Farmer was the executive director.  And I can’t recall who was the – I think the president was Bill McMahon at the time and then it became Dawn Lawrie.  I think that’s correct.

    I feel that Frank did a tremendous job in sailing the organisation into a very stable and financial position and organised the incorporation of the organisation to take on Hepatitis, and I think that that was a good thing.  He’d had foresight because sooner or later, you know, the services that were going to be required in that area moreso than HIV, at the time for the Territory.  Maybe not for other jurisdictions but – it was bit of a tumultuous time as well.

    [We ran the] NSP, Sex Worker Outreach Program, Youth Program, Youth and Beats Program – so they were half-time each.  In 2003 we had an Indigenous program that consisted primarily of Sister Girl retreats.  So it’s different to what it is today.  And there was a person that did Care and Support.  But they were based in another position.  But in 2003 there was a designated Care and Support Officer by that point.

    I think the SWOP Program was much better resourced than it is today, so it doesn’t employ somebody full-time today though the capacity is almost point eight most probably.  But it used to be full-time.  The outreach program’s focus has changed to be a broader focus on sexual health for Indigenous people, which I think’s a good idea, instead of focussing on one particular section of the community.  And the overall scope of the organisation has changed definitely.  So the quality of our communication and of our events is much, I think much better.  It’s certainly setting a benchmark compared to what it was 10 or 12 years ago.

    Look, you know, I was in the office.  It was an old, dilapidated elevated house with holes in it and the executive director at the time wanted to put a bar downstairs.  Well that was a smart move wasn’t it?  John Spellman was around the corner a block away and run a licenced bar, so he was furious.  So that got him offside, which was a main community player in the community.  So there was a fair bit of vitriol at the time.  Plus – I’m not sure what happened before I came on-board – but there was a bit of community backlash about particular people that had been treated in a bad way.  So you always got a sense that people were, you know – but you’d have a dance party and 100 people would turn up.  So it was really hard to work out what was going on. 

    But for that first few years that I was involved, the NTAHC used to run their own dance parties as fundraisers.  And they might do that three or four times a year.  And that was about providing a safe space for gay and lesbian people to come together to have a good night together.  And that, I suppose it didn’t last too long from 2000.  Maybe finished by the time 2005 or something came around.  Throb had already opened so there was major competition.  People weren’t attending and the numbers started to dwindle.  But it was about providing a safe space. They were in different locations but mainly they were run at the Aviation Institute in the time that I was involved, which is the club down near the airport. 

    Well, there was safe sex materials around, condoms and lube and stuff.  And it certainly gave you the opportunity to have conversations with other people.  But it wasn’t really the environment to do that in but it was – to provide people with condoms was the main vehicle at that point.

    The only other thing that I can think of is they had a ball which was at the Hilton, it’s called now, and it used to be called the – I don’t know what it used to be called.  They’ve changed names so many times.  And that was under Frank’s time, Frank Farmer’s time, up in the hotel.

    We had quite a few [Candlelight Vigils] at Lake Alexander.  And the youth group that I ran here when I was here in 2003 made lanterns and did a whole procession of lanterns and stuff throughout that time.  I don’t think I went to any other vigils anywhere else, always there.

    I really liked Bill McMahon.  He’d been the Care and Support officer during the ’90s and he became president for a very short period of time through a very tumultuous period, and he just had that total compassion and understanding for people.

    I think the organisation has done a tremendous job in being around for 30 years. And like all organisations and like individuals everybody changes and so I think it’s done a tremendous job at adapting to the times, really.