QuiltGate II : The Return

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The WA AIDS Council (WAAC) defaced the internationally recognised AIDS Memorial Quilt while blatantly discriminating against people with disabilities on World AIDS Day 2013, according to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence of the Abbey of the Black Swan. Sister Mary-Jane Singleton explains.

World AIDS Day, is the day all reasonable right-minded people regard as THE one day of the year where everyone should be able to come together to support positive people and remember those who have died from AIDS. This year, in spite of what might be reported by other media organisations, once again, the event was ruined by the WA AIDS Council (WAAC) staff’s complete lack of respect for the AIDS Memorial Quilt and a total disregard for the right of people with disabilities to participate.

Not content with having just one “boo boo” to apologise for, it would appear WAAC decided 2013 was the year to let it all hang out, with another ubiquitous right royal flush you given to the the Community.

WAAC put on a display of raw naked aggressive sovereign borders approach to social control that looked just like “We will control who gets to remember their loved ones here”.

Regular readers of the Stirrer and listeners of JOY FM will no doubt remember the exact same “Quilt-Gate problem” which was supposed to be resolved already. The fact that WAAC felt a repeat performance was in order says a lot about the integrity of the organisation, the worth of their promises and the no care attitude underpinning their apologies.

The WA AIDS Memorial Quilt, cared for by WAAC, was “once again” laid out, as James Newburrie so eloquently described it on the Rainbow Report, like a picnic rug, without any ground cover, after a night of rain to protect this fragile icon from the effects of moisture and harm from dog shit!

I say “once again” because this is not the first time I have been called away from vespers to sort out a mess created by the WA AIDS Council’s thoughtless and callous mishandling of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Perhaps, if WAAC spent some time actually engaging with the Community, rather than bandying around Abbotesque Slogans at their spectacular celebrity cocktail parties, then these kinds of “misunderstandings” might be able to be prevented so ALL people can, finally, experience some peace and tranquility at an Event at the WA AIDS Memorial.

As a Sister, this all really does remind me of John Howard’s slippery lines about core and non promises! The last time the Sisters raised the issue of the Quilt being mishandled at public events there was an international storm and the WA AIDS Council “promised” that they would buy a tarp, and use it, for all future events.

How much is a promise or an apology given by WAAC worth? Is this not an example of a culture of causing harm and then expecting to be able to get away with it via another disingenuous apology?

Is it not a total insult to the community, that the very first time the Quilt was displayed by the WA AIDS Council, after “Quilt-Gate 1”,  the CEO appears to have allowed the “team” led by the Clinical Services Manager, to ignore their promise to use a tarp?

I might indeed just be an irrelevant dumb arse Sister, but even I would not be so stupid as to repeat the picnic rug routine! It begs the question, does WAAC feel free to do what it likes because it believes their advertising budget gives them effective editorial control over the local “gay” media, who can thus be relied upon to ignore anything other than fluffy social good news?

Is the WA AIDS Council deliberately trying to provoke complaints from the Community, as they can’t be bothered looking after the AIDS Memorial Quilt and are looking for an excuse to send it to a museum, so no-one gets to see it?

Was the WAAC CEO’s aim to use World AIDS Day as a demonstration of control over all things HIV and to insult as many members of the positive community as possible and if so, is this the real reason the Board of the WA AIDS Council think 1 December 2013 was such a “triumph”?

As I have said before, haven’t we had this chat about the “World’s largest Art Work” before? Simply put, the WA AIDS Council promised they would buy a tarp and use that EVERY time a Quilt Panel was laid out. Was the tarp given away in a StyleAID celebrity goodie bag?

World AIDS Day 2013 in Perth also marked the dedication of the New AIDS Memorial Rock Garden and the first viewing of the first Name Plaques. The Name Plaques have been placed on the Memorial by the City of Vincent for the Positive Community to remember the names of people who have died from HIV/AIDS placed by their Partners, Families, friends & to recognise
Groups that have made a significant contribution to supporting people with HIV/AIDS in W.A.

Representatives of GLBTIQ Community Groups including Terry from Club West, Graham from PRIDE WA and Judy from the Nemer Foundation, attended to see the opening of the Community Rock which recognises the invaluable fundraising & support provided by groups and volunteers in the fight against AIDS.

The AIDS Memorial Rock Garden has been installed as part of the very extensive renovations undertaken by the City of Vincent. These renovations include repairing the lights, which had not worked since 2001, the installation of signage, with a red ribbon on it, that provides important
contextual information, the addition of seating designed to provide the frail with a reflection point and the installation of a Rock Garden crossed by disabled friendly pathways, plus garden upgrades.

As a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence I am gob smacked at the audacity demonstrated by the staff of the WA AIDS Council who organised the event. Instead of being a lovely day for everyone, the WA AIDS Council, in their “wisdom” decided to place large cement blocks, fair and square across the pathway entrances to the AIDS Memorial Rock Garden.

As The Most Vexatious Blessed Mother Gretta Amyletta of the Holy Vapours stated, “Fat Heavy concrete blocks with unused signs and their long skinny pointy aluminium poles blocked access @ the Dedication Ceremony of the City of Vincent’s Internationally registered WA AIDS Memorial Rock Garden… The headline for the Newspapers in the Eastern States is ‘Sisters stop desecration of international Aids Memorial on WAD’. Unused signs & Fat Heavy Concrete Blocks made the WA AIDS Memorial Rock garden look like an unfinished, ugly & unkempt building site!”

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According to the Clinical Services Manager, Lisa Tomney, the flags were placed there but were never intended to be used which caused the following response from Mother Gretta from the Perth Sisters: “… they (the flags) were never going to be used so they were deliberately placed across the pathways as an excuse to stop people accessing an important part of the memorial. It was a deliberate desecration and I had to remove them myself with Sr Mary Kay after Staff & Management Refused to remove them…

… What would happen if diggers were deliberately blocked from laying flowers at the war memorial on ANZAC Day, this is exactly the same!” stated Mother Gretta.

It was “interesting” indeed that it would appear that the “WAAC Staff on Duty” refused a reasonable request to remove the large cement blocks! As a result of this refusal to co-operate, Mother Gretta and Sr Mary-Kay were forced to remove the offensive blockage, risking their own health and safety, although in the interests of not having a scene in public” this was only able to be done after most people had gone home!

This, combined with the complete failure of the MC to acknowledge in any way the new feature, effectively “closed” access to the Memorial and it would appear that many of WAAC’s invited guests may not even be aware of that the City of Vincent has a built a lovely new AIDS Memorial Rock Garden at the WA AIDS Memorial in Perth.

Adding insult to injury, this blockage of the pathways completely prevented disabled people from being able to access the monument which begs the question, just how many discrimination laws were broken by WAAC on World AIDS Day?

This gives the unfortunate impression that WAAC is giving the finger or throwing the bird at our hard fought for anti-discrimination laws. As high profile members of the Community are not WAAC’s staff role models that should be setting a clear example and avoiding being seen as being part of the problem”?

Deliberately blocking access for disabled people certainly seems like a slap in the face to WA’s Equal Opportunity Commission. Does this mean WAAC will be rolling out a 2014 WAD Award for the EOC Commissioner in order to stave off legal action or has WAAC been given a special Catholic Living Centre style exemption that means they do not have to adhere to State and Federal Anti-discrimination Laws?

Does Lisa Tomney, WAAC’s Clinical Services Manager think that the responsibilities of duty of care can be put aside without anyone noticing? Does WAAC think their funders the WA State Government, the HIV+ Community and the Equal Opportunity Commission will just keep turning a blind eye to their toxic desecration of everything, forever?

If WAAC’s CEO Andrew Burry had thought to invite The Friends of the AIDS Memorial Group, who arguably at the largest HIV/AIDS Group in Australia, to the event then “Mr Canberra 747” could have asked for a loan of a tarp, if WAAC have indeed “lost” theirs? Was their claim to have bought a ground cover just a stunt for the media or was this just another example of out of control staff doing a Nasty & Vindictive Number at a public event?

It was telling that this World AIDS Day there was no positive person award, as they refused it, and the other major awards were seemed to be given to people who were paid to do the work they were honoured for. I guess volunteers giving of their time are now irrelevant too in this “Brave” New AIDS Council World.

As a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence I am also extremely disappointed that once again, at a public event, the Clinical Services Manager made the choice to misgender or ignore completely, trans* people.

As everyone knows the Sisters in Perth are an eclectic mix of genders. Time and time again, as Mistress Annuncio of the Perth Sisters I have tried to prevent WAAC staff from misgendering or offending our trans* members in public. I have made many reasonable requests to the Board of WAAC asking that Members of the Order be addressed appropriately. These remain unanswered and thus the mental health consequences for clients, are being ignored. So much for the AIDS Council mandate to do no harm, right?

Time after time I am having to explain in clear and simple terms that it is offensive to walk up to any Trans* person and use names they have asked not be used or which do not match the gender clearly on display, by the person they are addressing. Does this mean ALL WAAC clients are now going to be required to wear name badges with their gender identity clearly marked on it so WAAC staff can adhere to the Commonwealth law?

Isn’t this just another example of Trans* people being thrown under the bus – again? Speaking generally, as a Sister I am also very tired of protecting the identities of “so called role model LGBTIQ VIP Leaders” who think they can wander up to me in public with their racist or transphobic views “displayed on their arms”. It’s time that the LGBTIQ Community lifted it’s game in Perth as it is shameful that some redneck heterosexuals seem to be more able to respect the law than some “old style separatist type gays”!

Given the recent changes to the Australian Anti-Discrimination laws I am extremely disappointed that Lisa Tomney,  the Clinical Services Manager charged with the care of clients, misgendered and misnamed Trans* People on World AIDS Day. It is an example of an “interesting logic” indeed that this was done in front of card carrying members of the Media, Education and Arts Alliance and the Sister with the Biggest Mouth in Perth!

As the Supreme Court of the UK stated “We do not normally allow people to behave in a way which the law prohibits because they disagree with the law.”

Did I miss something while I was at Vespers? Did someone give the WA AIDS Council one of those special Catholic Living Centre style exemptions from the federal discrimination laws and if so which diocese is now running the new West Perth “Parish”?

Will the Sisters now be required to move our Vespers to the Large Rich Catholic Parish for Poor Mother Teresa’s, if so, will the Poor Sisters now need to run a campaign to have Vatican 2 recognised by WAAC and services run in English?

This all begs the question is something rotten in the state of Western Australia? Is nothing really sacred or was this abuse of World AIDS Day part of a petty plan, being carried out to downgrade all the important symbols, which still provide comfort and support for the majority of the positive community?

If you think discrimination is wrong, are fed up that the Sisters seem to be always having to fix AIDS Council Bungles or are just plain pissed off by continually hearing that the World’s Largest Art Work has been exposed to damage from rain and dog shit, then please contact Andrew Burry, the CEO of WAAC, at aburry@waaids.com and tell him “It’s not rocket science, get a tarp and use it”!

Felice Navidad and remember if you get lucky, over the silly season, with anyone, Condoms, gloves and water based lube are still the best way to stop yourself from ending up with AIDS and other STI’s!

Not that I as a Nun know anything about the specifics of glove use, I just read that on the Sisters Play Fair Education, risk assessment, risk awareness and risk management Strategy! 

For more info about the Sisters on Gender click here, and for info on the Perth Sisters visit the Abbey of the Black Swan Online.

Sister Mary-Jane Singleton of the Divine Green Weed.
Mistress Annuncio of the Perth Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Abbey of the Black Swan

Pics from “http://theholybitchmotherdingo.org

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