ACON farewells Mark Orr at AGM

ACON Mark Orr FarewellLong serving ACON president Mark Orr chaired his final Annual General Meeting last week, which also saw several board members re-elected as well as the release of our 2014/15 Annual Report.

During the AGM at their Sydney offices, the outgoing president briefed the organisation’s members about the implementation and impact of ACON’s HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health programs throughout the 2014/15 financial year.

“This year’s annual report commemorates ACON’s 30 year anniversary and this year we achieved many important outcomes across all our work areas, especially in our efforts to end HIV transmission in NSW by 2020 by getting gay men to test more, treat early and stay safe,” said Mr Orr. “We’re well on the way to achieving this goal with more gay men testing for HIV than ever before, more people with HIV now on treatment and the majority of gay men using condoms most of the time.”

Some highlights of the year included the installation of a giant condom on the Hyde Park Obelisk in Sydney, the opening of a permanent a[TEST] rapid HIV and STI testing facility on Oxford St, and the implementation Treat Early, a campaign promoting the health benefits of HIV treatment.

Other work included: provision of care and support services for people with HIV; a new strategy for addressing LGBTI related domestic and family violence; securing funding for research into and a campaign addressing tobacco use among lesbian, bisexual and queer women; the launch of a community visitor scheme to reduce social isolation among older LGBTI people; the launch of a new Training and Consulting Division providing national LGBTI inclusivity training and services; advocacy around new HIV prevention tool PrEP; and research into a range of issues affecting LGBTI people and people with HIV.

Throughout 2014/15, ACON distributed over 232,000 condom packs, had over 17,000 client interactions, performed over 3500 HIV and STI tests, distributed over 495,000 units of sterile injecting equipment and had over 340,000 website visitors.

Farewelling members and fellow board members, Mr Orr said he was proud and grateful to have made a contribution to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people and people affected by HIV:  “ACON is an amazing organisation that does incredibly important work in our community, especially in relation to HIV prevention and support.”

“It’s been an enormous privilege and a great pleasure to serve alongside my fellow ACON board members as well as the staff, volunteers, supporters and partners of ACON, and I thank all of these people and organisations for working with me during my time as president,” added Mr Orr.

“I look forward to ACON embracing the many exciting opportunities that the future holds and wish the organisation and the board all the best for their work ahead.”

Mr Orr joined the ACON board in 2006, becoming Secretary later that year and taking up the position of president in early 2008. This followed a stint on the board of New Mardi Gras (now Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras) as both a director and co-chair. During his tenure at ACON, Mr Orr has overseen a range of important outcomes and reforms including:

  • Adapting ACON’s HIV related work to align with advances in HIV prevention, treatment and testing, including the development and production of ACON’s award-winning ENDING HIV education initiative
  • Establishing Pride In Diversity, Australia’s first employer support program for LGBTI inclusion, and ACON Training and Consulting which helps organisations improve their capacity to work with LGBTI clients
  • Amalgamating ACON’s Sydney services into one location and creating a valuable new community health centre by co-locating other health and community organisations within the Surry Hills premises
  • Transitioning the NSW Sex Workers Outreach Project from a project of ACON to an independent organisation responding to the needs of sex industry workers
  • Developing and implementing a new five year strategic plan for the organisation as well as several sub strategies for specific areas such as HIV, mental health, alcohol and drugs, smoking, and domestic and family violence

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill says Mr Orr’s service has been exemplary: “Mark’s leadership over nearly eight years has been vital to ensuring that ACON is an open, agile and responsive organisation,” said Mr Parkhill.

“His insightful understanding of community, and his skills and expertise in governance and risk management have not only served ACON well but also many of our partner organisations. He has been an incredible advocate for our community and we’re extremely grateful for the time, effort and expertise he has bestowed on ACON and our community.”

In terms of other board members, five serving board members – Ben Bavinton, Julie Mooney Somers, Joshua Hatten, Justin Koonin and Louisa Degenhardt – were re-elected. They join board Andrew Purchas, John de Wit, Richard Lee and Robert Stirling who are up for re-election in 2016.  Board appointed director Steve Berveling continues in his role.

The new president will be announced at the meeting of the ACON board on Wednesday 11 November 2015. For more information and to view ACON’s 2014/15 Annual Report, visit: www.acon.org.au for details.

Image: Outgoing ACON president, Mark Orr – photo courtesy of ACON

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