Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

The newly elected conservative Coalition (the LNP) in Queensland is on a mission to hew and hack money off public programs in order to strait-jacket a supposedly unhinged deficit.

The Campbell Newman led Coalition has only been in power for a few weeks, yet their axes are overheating with the frenzied chopping and felling.

One of the first healthy trees to be felled was the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities. The agency has been stripped of its total Government funding of $2.5 million per annum. The money is to be sucked back into a Ministerial Advisory Group that will be established to review general HIV strategies.

This agency, formerly known as the Queensland AIDS Council, found out about the fatal cut via the media. This cut means the total withdrawal of all the funds for gay men’s HIV prevention activities via the agency.

This would appear to be a strange process if we lived in an apolitical world. Would it not be better to review the strategies before deciding to defund them all? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to give agencies some feedback on their direction and performance before whacking them over the head with a Government’s philosophical bent!

In my days before children and generalised chaos, I worked for over 10 years as a psychologist in the drug and alcohol field. One of those years I was seconded to the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and S-xual Health Unit of Queensland Health. I was the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Coordinator for Queensland with the focus on HCV transmitted by injecting drug use.

Those were the days ;). Being the HCV coordinator was one of the most stressful jobs I have ever been in.

Our Unit and all the agencies we funded targeted some of the most vulnerable people in our society: drug addicts (injecting drug users or IDU’s), gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, indigenous IDU’s, s-x workers, and others.

The strategies we use to reduce the transmission of deadly diseases like HIV and HCV in these groups are never popular with the general population; but they are proven to be affective. Strategies like Needle and Syringe Programs, peer education (where drug users, for example, are educated and provided with resources to educate their peers in the safer use of drugs), condom distribution at events, and explicit resources targeting these groups.

Some of the materials we helped develop and fund would horrify your average Joe. But here’s the thing – the resources are for the target groups, not the general population. We understand that the general population does not want people to inject drugs at all. But if at this point in their life they can’t stop using, isn’t it better if we strive to keep them free from communicable diseases.

These diseases not only have a horrific impact on the person infected, but they can also spread into the general population and cost the community vast sums of money to treat and contain.

Here’s a message from Healthy Communities. You can find more information at their website here and the agency has outlined a number of ways to fight this attack on the vulnerable of Queensland.

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Save Healthy Communities
Our only LGBT health and wellbeing organisation, the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (‘Healthy Communities’), is to be defunded by Queensland Health it was announced today.

Healthy Communities held contracts with Queensland Health for HIV prevention work with gay men and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs work with the LGBT community.

Healthy Communities is a 28-year-old state-wide organisation, with offices in Cairns, Maroochydore and Brisbane and employes 35 full and part-time staff, 26 of whom will lose their jobs as a result.

Our HIV funding from Queensland Health allows us to deliver much needed HIV prevention services including; one-to-one support about HIV & safe sex, HIV prevention skills building workshops, condom & lube distribution, sexual health information line, printed resources on HIV prevention and sexual health for gay men and social marketing campaigns promoting safe sex.

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27 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

  1. I’ve been watching Qld since the election to see what would happen and I keep hearing disturbing reports of things that really are/were for the good of all … for want of a better term ‘fringey things’ … stuff that not everyone (especially Liberal and Nationals) agreed with … beginning to disappear.

    • Yes, it started with the defunding of the Literary Awards (can’t be supporting these lefty arty farty types 😉 ); and then the defunding of Sisters Inside (a support group for female prisoners); and now this – makes you wonder what is coming up – I’m waiting for them to cut their own salaries and perks but could be waiting some time yet 😉 Thanks Geoff.

    • haha – we have it relatively good over here in Australia compared to the cost cuttings going on in many parts of the world – but given the relatively good state of our economy in Aus, there is even more reason not to do such things. Thanks colonialist.

  2. It’s shocking. Why take funding away from something that does so much good? It’s so disheartening. As you say, relative to the rest of the world, the Australian economy is doing well, so why cut funding to such necessary programs? So sad.

    • It is shocking Selma and has made me quite sad thinking how the workers will lose their jobs and the continuity of their projects which they are passionate about. When I worked in the HIV unit we used to talk about the possibility of conservative governments cutting funds if they didn’t like the strategies or got a lot of public ‘outrage’ – I can just imagine the discussions going on now in the agencies and central office.

  3. Pingback: Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf | Gabrielle Bryden's Blog « Enfemme

  4. oh gawd, why is it always the arts and the offspring of whatever prejudicial attitude is de rigueur that get their funds cut first?(for instance, the not too well hidden message gay prejudice underlying the theme as opposed to a more educated ‘aids is an illness that all kinds of people have’ and that recently the phobia/mania approach to the “social problem of gay marriage” has been accenting political debate for so long it is ridiculous, if they are cutting funding for health care, it’s awful, it’s very cold, but what politician ever said “lets have every multimilliondollar corporation donate 25% of profit revenues for the next 6 years starting now and the funds will be used to ramp up health care and education, especially concerning the arts.” it’ll never happen w/o campaign finance control, but then we tried that, and it still didnt make a difference so i guess that puts the problem squarely on our shoulders – now, how to eliminate greed…sigh, can they just leap and get over it?)

    • Yes, they can take a jump alright 😉 Thanks tipota – you’re right of course – if only all the really rich had some generosity and ethics – though maybe they only got rich because of the lack of these things – who knows – all I know is that an individual-centric society can’t last successfully for too long!

  5. I’m always cautious about commenting on how governments work, because sometimes there’s a bit of an iceberg thing going on: what we hear in the media isn’t the whole story. In other words, sometimes there’s sense to things that appear on the surface to be non-sensical. However, in this case, considering that this seems to another story on a theme, I agree with other comments: there does seem to be a bit of dog-whistling going on here, and it does seem tricky. Bastards.

    • QAHC does appear to have been targeted in some way – I mean, why not just reduce part of their funding rather than the whole lot – such a large amount of money and so many staff involved – or evaluate than reassess funding. Anyway, time will tell if other less ‘fringy’ programs are cut significantly as well. Thanks Nigel 🙂

  6. “Some of the materials we helped develop and fund would horrify your average Joe. But here’s the thing – the resources are for the target groups, not the general population”.
    GB, this is one of the smartest statements on such issues I have ever read. It looks so simple yet is so profound. Of course to get to the target group, the message must be broadcast to the general population and there lies the trap.
    But on a federal level, we must be always thankful that the health minister (Liberal) who was on watch when HIV hit Australia was a medical doctor. He immediately initiated a huge publicity/educational campaign that gave us one of the best results in the world. He successfully fought off the mainly religious lobby that wanted the ‘sinners’, ie, gays punished. Can’t think of his name unfortunately, but we should be eternally grateful for his wisdom and guts.
    Note: The reaction of his Country Party leader colleague, Ian Sinclair, to the news AIDS had entered Australia was; “It is all the Labor Party’s fault!”

    • I was wrong about the politics of the minister. (Dr) Neil Blewett was the minister responsible. He was in the Hawke (Labor) Government. No matter, he did turn public opinion around, the same public that hounded little Eve van Grafhorst out of the country only a year earlier!

      • Thanks for the info Stafford. Many of the targeted resources (pamphlets, posters etc.,) can be distributed directly to the target groups or placed in places where they frequent – therefore not exposing the resources to the general public. The placement of condom adverts for gay men in bus shelters was one controversy in Brisbane that widely criticised, and I think these organisations should think very carefully about their distribution strategies so as not to get a lot of people off side. Most of our IDU resources are distributed via needle and syringe programs (where the general population don’t go) and in treatment programs and also via peer groups etc., . Other resources go to places like nightclubs etc., where the information is useful for that age group.

    • Yes, I heard about that bullying strategy – not very well thought through and could have a whole series of negative outcomes that could increase criminality. When will they realise that consequences or ‘punishment’ need to quickly follow the behaviour – young people don’t care about ‘5 years from now’ but they do care if their peers quickly reject them for their bullying behaviour now – it’s like smoking – don’t care if they might get cancer down the track but do care if their bad breath turns off their girlfriend at the end of a night out 😉 Thanks BB for the link.

  7. I had no idea about the funding cut, until I heard it from you. I use to work with the AIDS Council in NSW in the late 80’s. We had some fantastic programmes in place which helped keep people with AIDS in their home & well looked after by volunteers & great preventative programmes ( condoms left at beats & freely given out elsewhere ). This would have saved the Govt. millions short & long term. Campbell is way too short sighted & despotic. Is he being as ruthless with his property developer mates?

  8. I heard today a Govt. Dept. has been told to remove every second light bulb, & women are allowed one toilet roll / week each. If extras are required, they must be bought from home.

    • What! Hahahaha – I heard that the Education Department is to have no indoor plants! I have no problems with these cost cutting measures which are at least environmentally friendly (except the plants – haha) – they should also put locks on the stationary cupboards – the amount of pens, staplers etc., that find their way to the homes of public servants is a disgrace 😉

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