Sydney’s LGBTI Community Honours Its Heroes

ACON Honour AwardsIt was the ‘year of the woman’ at the Honour Awards in Sydney as 10 people and organisations from across NSW and Australia were recognised for their service to NSW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Now in their ninth year, the Honour Awards recognises outstanding achievements within or contributions to NSW’s LGBTI community. The awards are also a gala fundraising event for LGBTI charity Aurora and for ACON, NSW’s leading HIV and LGBTI health organisation.

The winners were selected from a diverse field of 250 nominations and 30 finalists, and were presented with their awards at a ceremony at the Ivy Ballroom in Sydney. The event was attended by over 350 people and raised over $50,000 for LGBTI health initiatives supported by ACON and Aurora.

Six of the 10 awards went to women or organisations for or run by women. Steph Sands received the Community Hero Award for over 15 years of developing, guiding and supporting a range of LGBTI community organisations and events including as co-chair of Mardi Gras and founder of Women Say Something. Levinia Crooks, one of Australia’s leading HIV advocates, received the ACON President’s Award in recognition of a lifetime dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

Country music star Beccy Cole shared the Arts & Entertainment Award with the cast and crew of hit Aussie film Holding The Man for their artistic success and for championing acceptance and inclusion of LGBTI people, while Dykes On Bikes was recognised in the Community Organisation category for 25 years of cultural and community contributions.

Sydney artist Deborah Kelly received the Visual Arts Award for various works exploring LGBTI families, social inclusion and LGBTI cultural history, while Sydney firm Dowson Turco Lawyers won in the Business category for being one of NSW’s most LGBTI-engaged law practices through pro bono work, community partnerships and direct donations to key community organisations.

Sydney Morning Herald writer and editor Rick Feneley was honoured in the Media category for his work investigating Sydney’s historical gay hate homicides, while Anthony Venn Brown picked up the Health & Wellbeing Award for over 20 years of providing leadership and support for LGBTI people of faith and for working to bring ex-gay/conversion therapy practices to an end in Australia. Finally, Richard Ezomoh took out the Young Achiever Award for his HIV prevention and support work with gay and homosexually active men in Nigeria and among Australia’s Nigerian refugee population.

ACON President Mark Orr congratulated the winners and all the finalists on their achievements and community service. “Last night’s event was a truly inspirational and thoroughly entertaining evening and a great celebration of the dynamic spirit of our community, especially the contributions that women are making. I’d like to thank all the people who submitted nominations as well as all our guests for coming along and supporting ACON and Aurora,” said Mr Orr.

Aurora Chair Alison King extended thanks to the event’s partners and supporters. “We thank our event partners SX Magazine, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Foxtel, Merivale, Glyde Health, and OX Live as well as all the people, businesses and organisations which donated items for the silent auction.”

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Image: Anthony Venn-Brown, Nicholas Stewart – Dowson Turco Lawyers, Stacey Dowson – Dowson Turco Lawyers, Tommy Murphy – Holding The Man Cast & Crew, Rick Feneley – SMH, Steph Sands, Cameron Huang – Holding The Man Cast & Crew, Levinia Crooks, Richard Ezomoh, Kylie du Fresne – Holding The Man Cast & Crew, Manda Hatter and Mel Kelley of Dykes on Bikes – courtesy of ACON