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Qtopia Sydney’s Polson & Kirby Head the Callout in Memorialising Those Lost to Aids

November 9, 2023

In the records of modern history, the AIDS pandemic – a global tragedy that left behind a trail of unfathomable suffering and despair – changed the course of the medical, social and cultural landscape forever.

Qtopia Sydney, to become one of the largest Centre’s for Queer history and culture in the world, will construct a dedicated AIDS memorial in the heart of our permanent home at 301 Forbes Street, Darlinghurst, to commemorate those who succumbed to the disease.

Qtopia Sydney CEO Greg Fisher said, “The five-metre-high memorial will sit within a beautifully presented solemn space – designed to memorialise and inform, with the names of those who have passed identified within the space.

“In keeping with its foundation purpose, and after much thought and careful consideration, the Board believe that our approach will be another important facet in remembering friends and family who have been lost.

With the support of community LGBTQIA+ newspaper, the Sydney Star Observer, the names of our family and friends whose deaths were announced in its classifieds all those years ago, will be uplifted and recalled forever. We will also have a notice on the memorial wall that offers the community the opportunity to provide additional names to be added every six months,” Mr Fisher said.

Qtopia Sydney Patron Hon Michael Kirby is heralding the approach.

“When HIV/AIDS first arrived in Australia its impact on the LGBTIQ population was devastating. Following advice we received from UN experts and medical experts such as the late Professor David Cooper, we did better than most countries. But the loss of lives under frightening and unexpected circumstances, left an indelible memory on our community. For those who lived through it, the pain is still there.

“In deciding to add the names of those who died to a permanent exhibition of remembrance, we will make sure that their memories live on. I am glad that Qtopia Sydney will be establishing this memorial as an act of remembrance so that we will pay them and their partners and families respect in perpetuity.

“The members attending AIDS vigils each year are declining with the passing of time. So we must add the names to this memorial at Qtopia Sydney to record forever those whom we loved and lost.”

Emeritus Founding Chair David Polson AM, one of the first 400 men to be diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, hopes the memorial will become a space of reflection, education and commemoration, encouraging the continuation of a conversation that ultimately puts an end to the stigma that has circulated this topic for decades.

“Qtopia Sydney is the beginning of the fulfillment of a vision of the late Professor David Cooper – one of the world’s greatest HIV/AIDS researchers, scientists, physicians and humanitarians – the man that saved my life all those years ago.

“The AIDS memorial at Qtopia Sydney will be a tribute to Professor Cooper, his work and his contribution to medical advancement as a result of the pandemic. It will be a tribute to the work that has been undertaken in the medical sector to allow people like me, to live with AIDS. Most importantly, it will be a tribute to those who lost their lives.

“With diagnosis, comes stigma. Not only will our memorial pay homage to our fallen, it will allow us to continue the dialogue around inclusion and diversity. It is through education that this will be made possible,” he concluded.

In the true spirit of unity, Qtopia Sydney is inviting members of the community to share the names of those known to them who were lost during the pandemic. Submissions are more than just words etched in a wall – they are a testament to the lives that deserve to have their stories told and remembered for years to come.

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