City News

New petition seeks ACON reforms

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner / Photo: Stephen Cooper

Concerned community activists have started an electronic petition on calling on NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to investigate GLBTI health and wellbeing organisation, ACON.

Activists from the Australian chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (New ACT UP) say ACON is wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money each year.

ACON, which was originally the AIDS Council of NSW, has expanded to encompass a wider GLBTI health role, and promotes itself as the state’s peak GLBTI group.

“We believe the organisation has become self-serving, incompetent, corrupt, ineffective and unaccountable to those they are funded to serve,” said the New ACT UP petition, which had 140 signatories at press time.

“We submit that ACON fails to serve the NSW HIV-positive community and fails in its charter to educate on the consequences of unsafe sex and the realities of living with HIV.”

The petition, which alleges a cut in services for HIV-positive people, also calls for an audit of ACON’s finances, “particularly monies spent on entertainment, alcohol, catering and travel”.

It comes against a background of rapidly rising HIV rates in NSW, with a 24 per cent jump in new HIV cases recorded in 2012.

With ACON receiving over $10 million in State Government funds each year, New ACT UP spokesperson Tony Pincombe said it had to be accountable – but Mr Pincombe said he didn’t necessarily want to see ACON defunded, like its equivalent organisations in Queensland and South Australia.

Last year, the Queensland Government pulled the plug on funding for the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) for failing to stem rising HIV rates and alleged misuse of public funds.

In July, the South Australian Government defunded the Adelaide-based equivalent, the AIDS Council of South Australia (ACSA).

“This petition is about reforming ACON not abolishing it,” said Mr Pincombe.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill refused to comment.

Ms Skinner did not respond by deadline, but a spokesperson said the Minister or a departmental official would respond this week.

New ACT UP hopes to collect 500 signatures by the end of the month. According to NSW legislation, petitions with 500 or more signatures trigger a parliamentary response from the relevant minister.

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