Arts & Entertainment

Honour Roll

Elaine Czulskowski, Chris Pycroft, Patrick Abboud, Dorothy McRae-McMahon & Steph Sands. (L-R) Photo: John McRae

By Madison Behringer

Since its conception in 2007, the annual ACON Honour Awards have celebrated outstanding service to, and achievements within, the LGBTIQ community in New South Wales and Australia wide. This year, 30 incredible individuals and community groups will be celebrated at the annual ACON Awards ceremony in Sydney, held at the Ivy Ballroom on Wednesday. 

The not-for-profit award ceremony also doubles as a fundraising gala for programs and services offered by ACON, who is NSW’s leading organisation for community health, inclusion and HIV responses for people of diverse sexualities and genders. 

Each year, 32 finalists are selected from over 200 nominations across nine different categories including business, health, HIV, youth, community, visual arts, entertainment, media and culture. Four finalists from each category will join over 300 guests in the Ivy Ballroom this week, with the winners being announced on the night. A silent auction will also be held with items on offer including luxury holidays, art, furniture, jewellery, five-star dining, accommodation and entertainment packages.

Each year the commitment and caliber of the nominees flourishes, with judges finding it harder and harder to narrow their selection down to just 32 finalists.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said: “As always, selecting the finalists was an extremely difficult process for our community panel because the achievements, contributions and work of all the nominees had each been noteworthy in their own way.”

The 2019 ACON Honour Awards will feature finalists from a wide variety of fields, community groups, ages and regions, with awards including the Young Achiever Award, the Community Organisation Award and many more. The awards night is a beautiful combination of glam, gala and pure celebration of individuals and community groups that are achieving amazing things within the LGBTIQ community. 

“I congratulate all the finalists and look forward to them and other members of our communities coming together to celebrate their collective achievements at the 2019 Honour Awards ceremony,” said Parkhill of this year’s event. 

In 2015, the ACON Community Hero Award was awarded to Steph Sands, who over a period of more than 15 years spent her time supporting and rebuilding multiple LGBTIQ community organisations. In 2002, Steph helped to rebuild the Mardi Gras organisation after it went into administration, while also founding Women Say Something, a platform that worked to engage and encourage women in their communities. 

“I’m incredibly humbled to have received the Community Hero Award in 2015,” Steph said, going on to say, “I didn’t expect an award or even a nomination… but it was very emotional to be recognised for the work I had put in in this way.”

Steph spoke about her work within Women Say Something, outlining the vision of the platform, saying: “There was a real need in the community at the time for an avenue for women’s voices to be heard. We [the WSS team] tried very hard to ensure equity across all elements of the events, from diversity in speakers to price points for audiences. The goal was to enable a platform for free thought and issues to be discussed in an environment where everyone was welcomed and safe.”

Steph’s work with the Mardi Gras organisation and her work within Women Say Something were only part of what led her to be nominated for the Community Hero Award in 2015. Steph has worked tirelessly throughout her career to ensure the celebration and equality of all members of the LGBTIQ community.

Steph describes ACON as, “an over-arching protective parent that sees all but knows when to jump in and help!” and says that the work that each year’s Honours Awards nominees are doing is, “important work that sometimes can’t be seen in other organisations or institutions within the community… all are heroes and deserve the honour.”

Chris Pycroft has worked in the non-profit community sector for most of his career, and in 2016 he was awarded the Young Achiever Award at the annual ACON ceremony. Chris was nominated for his work in the engagement and inclusion of all LGBTIQ community members, including those with disabilities or mental health issues. 

Since receiving the award, Chris worked untiringly for Australian Marriage Equality on the Yes campaign and continues to work for the inclusion and equality of LGBTIQ people in their workplaces. 

“I got involved with supporting people in our communities because I could see so many people I knew struggling, and knew I had to do something to help. It’s so incredibly special to be able to give back and be able to hopefully make an impact,” said Chris, when reflecting on the ACON Honour Award experience. “It’s vital that we look out for ourselves, look out for each other, and have access to support whenever we need it.”

Chris spoke about the incredible work that ACON are doing, not only through the Honours Award platform, saying: “The work that ACON does is so incredibly vital – whether it be through public campaigns, their counselling programs or support in rural and regional communities, not many organisations have the capability and reach that ACON does. They’ve been instrumental in achieving some hugely positive progress in health outcomes for LGBTIQ people over recent years, and I hope their work is able to continue for many years to come.”

Tickets are still available for the annual ACON Honours Awards Ceremony, with the event being an unmissable night of cocktails, celebration and entertainment. 

Oct 2. Ivy Ballroom, 330 George Street, Sydney. $75-$150+b.f. Tickets & Info: 

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