“Home is where the art is”

Joe Borg – participating artist in “Home is Where the Art Is


Meet Joe (pictured below), a member of Living Positive Victoria and a regular volunteer at Coventry House. Amongst many of his talents, Joe is an artist, and some of his works are featuring in an upcoming exhibition at Gasworks Art Park. The exhibition is entitled: “Home is Where the Art Is”. It’s a presentation of works by artist living in housing provided by Port Phillip Housing Association, and is a part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.


Joe has been exploring art from an early age in many forms: oil painting, pottery (he’s a qualified ceramics teacher), and his latest interest – painting and design on eggs – is featuring in this show. He knew of the famous Fabergé eggs, jeweled and decorated egg created by Peter Fabergé in Russia a century ago. Unable to find anyone doing any work on eggs or even teaching this skill, he decided to embark on it as a project himself. There will be around nine pieces (three works on ostrich eggs, and six using goose eggs) featuring varying decorative designs.

The Port Phillip Housing Association is a community housing provider based largely (but not solely) in the inner south of Melbourne. This exhibition is amongst many activities that illustrates the breadth of creativity that is found amongst the many tenants in community housing, and helps eliminate stigma and isolation.

Exhibition details:

22 September – 4 October 2015

9.30 am – 4.00 pm, Mon – Sat,
The Foyer Gallery, Gasworks Arts Park
21 Graham St, Albert Park

Tuesday 22 September 5.30pm to 7.30pm


Address by Brent Allan, CEO Living Positive Victoria as part of the HIV Sector Roundtable on Crystal Meth

Address delivered by Living Positive Victoria CEO, Brent Allan, to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into crystal methamphetamine PUBLIC HEARING on Wednesday 29 July 2015:

“Thank you Mr Chair and to committee members for the invitation to address this public hearing.

As a member of the leadership team at Living Positive Victoria our mission to support, advocate and champion PLHIV as central and vital in the collective effort to end HIV in Australia.

My opening remarks encourage a reflection and consideration of how a collective, bipartisan partnership response (which acknowledges the voice and action of affected communities as powerful agents of social change), to a complex social and health issue has already been led and modelled by Australia.

It is without question that Australia is internationally renowned for having one of the most contained HIV epidemics in the developed world and this is due to one simple fact – Australia acted early in the HIV epidemic to implement pragmatic non- judgmental public health and social action interventions such as wide spread NSP, community led education and support services as well as risk and harm reduction advice predicated upon community knowledge and achieved this in the context of widespread community fear of HIV and PLHIV often fuelled by misinformation and stigma.

The success of the Australian HIV response embodies social action on health it is an example of what can be gained when pragmatism trumps moralism, when the voices and experiences of affected communities are harnessed to support not punish, when the reaction of those in power and authority to enact punitive laws is set aside in favour of promoting health and wellbeing, human rights and civil liberties because further marginalizing already marginalized communities is unethical, unjust and unfair.

However, effective social action on health can be easily diminished when community fears are fuelled by ill-informed political rhetoric and media hysteria for this not only creates a platform for misinformation it exacerbates the shaming, silencing and marginalisation of the people most in need of health promotion, social programs and community building services.

PLHIV know all too well the damaging effects of shame, silence and stigma and we stand in solidarity with our community members facing the same effects because they are a person who uses illicit or recreational drugs such as methamphetamines.

But unlike methamphetamine users, PLHIV have access to education and health promotion resources which speak to them about ways to reduce risks and harms in their lives and much of this often comes directly from the lived experiences of others living with HIV.

But where are these resources for people using methamphetamines so that they can learn from their peers’ experiences in order to reduce the risk and harms of their use?
Where is the political will to endorse community-led peer programs and the investment in community leaders to support and advise upon research, policies and strategies to divert people from the harms and risks of use before it can become problematic?

And how do we even open a community dialogue that acknowledges that drug use is not a social evil or a personal failure and its presence is ubiquitous across our communities; and although its form and nature may change – it is how we educate, inform and support our communities which mitigates and minimizes any potential personal or social harms from drug use.

So why is it that we continue to tolerate the misinformation and absence of quality targeted harm reduction resources on meth and the stereotyping of people who use it?
Australia must recognize that is has a model of international best practice which has demonstrated how to tackle complex social and health issues and it is not predicated upon silencing and shaming affected communities or denying community harm reduction education, information and support programs.

I fear that an effective and coordinated national policy is being negatively affected by a political tone and media response that promotes a narrative of fear and a seemingly blinkered view to continue to promote failed drug law and health policy responses.
We know that investments in scaling up community leadership and mobilization creates market appropriate and accessible information and support programs so that people at risk of harm are not left trying to figure out for themselves strategies what should be available without judgment or condemnation or the censorship from those to whom these services are not directed.

We must urgently change the current community dialogue which continues to scapegoat those who use methamphetamine to a more informed and sophisticated discussion across the jurisdictions of justice, health and education which acknowledges use, encourages responsible use and equips people with the knowledge and skills to use safely.

It’s ironic that Australia’s early response to HIV was, and at the time, seen by some as “permissive” and that enabling marginalised communities such as gay men to run community-led education and support was seemingly contrary to the prevailing notion that only sound professional respected direction provided by experts and authorities was needed in such urgent and dire circumstances such as HIV.

I believe that our challenge is this – are we brave enough to enable and equip yet another marginalized community – people who use drugs to respond to the gaps in education, treatment, care and support using their community wisdom and insights like we did with the Australian response to HIV or will we continue to support political fear mongering and scapegoating until the solutions are well and truly out of reach.

If we do not rise to this challenge the result will be more people unable and without the ability to identify and understand successful harm reduction strategies and the real control over their own use.”

Address by Brent Allan, CEO Living Positive Victoria as part of the HIV Sector Roundtable including Linda Forbes (AFAO), Nicolas Parkhill (ACON), Tony Maynard (NAPWHA) and Craig Cooper (Positive Life NSW).

More information about Living Positive Victoria’s position, information and services around crystal use can be found here.

Growing together: the PLC Grow Group


The PLC Grow Group:

The Grow group meets at the Positive Living Centre each Friday afternoon (between 1.00pm and 3.00pm).  It’s a mutual self-help peer-support group for HIV positive folk who are living with mental health issues.  Each meeting is a reconciling of tight structure with flexible discussion, allowing each member to report on progress, open up problems to be addressed with sensible advice, and working together on sharing a practical, do-able task to be tackled by the next week’s meeting.

We also have readings on mental health and from the wide constructive archive of Grow materials, and objective discussion on that material.  Yes, it’s a 12-step program, but not like Alcoholics Anonymous, with its strict perspective about surrendering to a higher power and invoking God. Grow’s essential spirituality is based first and foremost on a belief in persons, and is open and inclusive to people of all faiths.  It draws on the long history of the Grow program as a proven method for working through mental issues.

The benefits are real, long-lasting, measurable, helpful for your everyday life, enabling control, and beneficial to your relationships with others.  The support is open, honest, and friendly, plus it extends outside the meeting to understanding, encouraging phone-calls and catch-ups.

What is Grow?

Grow has been around for 58 years, with groups all over Victoria, formulating a research-proven approach, putting together a huge set of resources to help you with your personal development and growth toward maturity.  Its five main dimensions are: a Group Method (how meetings are run), a Program (written resource materials), a caring and sharing community, Leadership, and an organizational structure.  Truth, character and friendship are at its core values.  Its 12 Steps range from admitting that we have a personal disorder in our lives, to growing daily closer to maturity.  All group meetings are strictly confidential, so you can open up about anything.  When I felt safe enough, I shared with the group about my suicide attempt, electro-convulsive shock therapy, eating disorder and childhood sexual abuse.  They helped me work through, then past, these road-blocks to recovery, in ways I wouldn’t have believed possible even a year ago.  Grow acknowledges that recovery is a process, not an outcome, and is therefore different for everyone, so you set your own pace and choose what you want to focus on.


Why Join?

As you may already know, those of us living with HIV have significantly higher rates of anxiety/depression and other mental health issues, so it’s especially important to have practical supports in place.  We’re also more likely to be isolated and feel alone, so a ready-made circle of friends, and a safe non-judgmental environment, is crucial (and a relief).  The regular well-structured weekly meetings allow you to plan out, and then chart, your progress in dealing effectively with mental illness, and to stockpile advice and tools to deal with problems as they crop up, in a timely and useful way.  You’ll make new friends, empathetic and reassuring folk it’s easy to share concerns and experiences with.  A quote from the Grow Program: “You alone can do it but you can’t do it alone”.

What It’s Not:

The Grow group is not a social group, although we’ve developed firm friendships and a strong rapport, and we regularly have social events.  Our meetings are for practical work on issues, sharing discussion, collaborating on how to approach recovery and developing a healthy balanced life with a positive outlook.  It requires a commitment, a determination to change and mature, and to take charge of dealing with mental health issues.  It’s worth it.  On the other hand, it’s not a psychiatric forum nor clinical consultation: it doesn’t replace a community mental health clinic or advice from mental health professionals, and it’s not a venue for swapping guidance on medication or other treatments.


Being able to talk to others going through the same or similar experience of living with mental health issues is of itself a huge relief, an invitation to friendly connections and a way of working towards resilient recovery.

How to Join:

Interested in joining in?  Contact Leigh or Dean, by email  growplc@iinet.net.au, or speak to the friendly PLC reception staff .

Letter from Christabel Millar for International Women’s Day at ChillOut

Dear Positively Fabulous People ,

Thank you so much for coming to our gorgeous event supporting all women on International Women’s Day at Chill Out. I am so sorry not to be here with you all today, Ma’ Dam Kim is an absolute goddess to me and everyone around her and I wish I was right there by her side today to celebrate her and all of the fabulous work she does. I personally would be lost without her!  All women as well as positive women deserve a lot of extra support and love here in Australia, not only because we are fabulous but because sometimes it is hard to get our needs truly met so that  we can continue being fabulous! So please continue doing exactly what you are doing today by being courageous and openly loving and lifting up your fellow women! This community means the world to me and I feel so lucky to be part of such a remarkable world, I cannot wait to see you all soon so please have the most positively beautifully fabulous day!!

Love always




David Menadue

Alfred Health set up an HIV Services Advisory Group last October to consult the HIV community about the way forward for their HIV Services. Some proposed changes, particularly to Fairfield House’s operations, had upset a number of people in the community and the hospital, to their credit, decided they should consult with the community before proceeding with any proposed changes to the service.

The Advisory Group includes five HIV Positive members, a representative from the Department of Health, and staff from the Alfred. The Alfred Health’s CEO, Andrew Way, chairs the Committee and has shown a willingness to take on board new ideas and suggestions.

At the first meeting in October last year, Andrew Way explained why the Alfred was thinking about regarding HIV services. The clinical environment around HIV is changing, he said, and care is moving more into the community with shared care with S100 prescribers becoming the central way that PLHIV are managed these days. There was also the likelihood that some community pharmacies will be able to dispense HIV medications. The Alfred doesn’t want to duplicate services if they are no longer required.

The Group has met three times and is working on three priorities:
1. Raising awareness of and improve access to PrEP at The Alfred and around
the State;
2. Promoting Cultural Safety in the services provided by The Alfred (which may
include achieving the Rainbow tick accreditation from Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria)
3. Review services for people needing interim levels of care (e.g. Horizon Place
and Fairfield House clients).

At the February meeting the group isited Horizon Place, a residential service for PLHIV run by the Alfred, so that all Group members could understand better what this service provides. The Group was then guided through Fairfield House. The ensuing meeting discussed the need for accommodation like Horizon Place into the future and whether there was still a need for respite for PLHIV.

A number of positive people have provided input to Group members about the Alfred’s services and suggestions about what services must remain areas in need of improvement or possible changes.

If you would like to have your say, feel free to contact Reference Group members Bernie Slagtman (0402 859885) David Menadue (0412753338) Max Niggl ( 0412 082 372) Phil Elphinstone (0466 726 277) or Michelle Wesley on (0421 329 984 ). Or email alfredcommunityrep@yahoo.com.au.