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Tuesday, 16 February 1999
Page: 2918

Mr DANBY (10:39 PM) —Before I focus on the excellent work of the ALSO Foundation, can I thank my colleague the member for Rankin for reading into the record that section of the GST bill that earlier today I called the `Groucho Marx clause', and which the Minister for Aged Care refused to let me table at the conclusion of this afternoon's debate. The issue of GST charges on prepaid funerals will continue to run while this minister takes such a frivolous attitude to a $600 million industry.

I wish to draw the attention of this House to Victoria's largest gay and lesbian community organisation, the Alternative Life Style Organisation, better known to Victorians as the ALSO Foundation. ALSO was established in 1980 when gay men and lesbians joined together to organise the celebration of the then Victorian government's gay and lesbian decriminalisation reforms.

For 19 years it has committed itself to advancing the wellbeing of gay, lesbian and associated communities. ALSO has pursued the aims of making philanthropic grants available, of addressing the health, welfare and social needs of the community it serves, and of promoting community development projects. The ALSO Foundation raises the finance required to fund community groups and projects and initiatives, whilst the ALSO Care and Benevolent Society Inc. is a registered charity that allocates the funds.

ALSO is a model for voluntary organisations. It receives no government financial assistance; instead, funds are raised through private sources through events such as their three important dance parties: `New Years Eve', `Red Raw' and `Winterdaze'. Each is held in shed 14 at the Melbourne docks. These dance parties are the highlight of the social calendar for many thousands of gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and, indeed, straight Victorians. It is a tribute to ALSO that those thousands of people gather for what is an exhausting but exhilarating night of dancing. These parties are entirely peaceful and entirely fun.

ALSO raises funds in a number of ways, including concerts such as the one I recently attended featuring major international performers like Grace Jones, through donations and bequests, and through membership subscriptions—approximately 1,000 supporters pay $25 per year. Significant funding is also achieved through the publication of the ALSO directory. This is literally a `pink pages' to gay and lesbian businesses and community organisations in Victoria.

As a result of its extraordinarily successful fundraising activities, ALSO is able to provide the community with a community resource centre, which is currently utilised by approximately 50 community organisations for administrative and support facilities, the ALSO directory that I have described, a rural outreach program and a student resource and coming-out guide. ALSO is, and remains, at the forefront of same sex anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns.

ALSO provides the gay and lesbian and associated communities with an advocacy organisation that initiates and supports developments in those communities. There are still significant inequalities in our society. Gay men and lesbian women still suffer discrimination. There is still much to be done. The member for Grayndler has a bill languishing on the Notice Paper which addresses one such inequality. His proposition to end discrimination against same sex couples in superannuation arrangements illustrates most forcefully the need for organisations such as ALSO to continue the fight. Much has been achieved, but much more needs to be done.

A number of significant Victorian organisations have been the beneficiaries of ALSO's largesse over the years. They include the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard, JOY Melbourne radio, the Victorian AIDS Council, the Melbourne Quilt Project and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Each organisation has been able to use grants to achieve a more professional approach within and outside the gay and lesbian community. ALSO is one of those wonderful organisations that makes up the rich tapestry of Australian life. We all admire voluntary organisations like ALSO that express the spirit of volunteerism that makes for a civic and, indeed, civilised society. Led by president Adam Pickvance, vice president David McCarthy and administrative manager Mark Yeo, ALSO is one of those organisations that deserves just recognition.