Several key LGBT community figures have become members of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Two pioneers in HIV transmission prevention, a champion squash player who came out at 14 and a former Jesuit priest who could no longer live “a lie” have become members of the Order of Australia in the annual Queen’s birthday honours list.
Dr Alex Wodak from the St Vincent’s Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service was recognised for “service to medicine and public health”, most notably through his work in raising the profile of HIV transmission among injecting drug users.
He said he was “delighted” to receive the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) but “also conscious as anyone in public health … all my work is a member of another team”.
“The crux of the problem is the drug laws. It’s the drug laws that forced me to break the law to try and protect the health of all Australians,” he told SX.
Wodak began issuing syringes to injecting drug users when it was becoming evident there were large numbers of people at risk of HIV infection in the inner city, which until a needle exchange program was approved by the government was still illegal
His groundbreaking work has ensured that HIV infection through shared syringes remains very low in Australia when compared to other “rich” countries.
Kirketon Road Centre director Ingrid Van Beek was honoured for her service to “public health and community medicine through the promotion and provision of primary care for people affected by mental health issues, substance and physical abuse, and HIV/AIDS”.
Former Jesuit priest Phil Grano who became depressed about “living a lie” by hiding his sexuality but then leaving the priesthood was honoured for his work with people with disabilities and the law.
And former coordinator of Gsquash and Squash Manager of the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney, Carin Clonda, was honoured for her “service to the sport of Squash through administrative roles and to the community”.