ACON 2015 Honour Awards

(PHOTO: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer)

The  ACON Honour Awards is an annual event which acknowledges outstanding service to or achievement within NSW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Now in their ninth year, the Honour Awards provide NSW’s LGBTI community with an important and unique opportunity to recognise and celebrate excellence and achievement within our community as well as the difference that particular individuals and organisations make in our lives.

The 30 finalists were selected from a record 250 nominations received across eight categories covering the business, health, education, community, legal, political, media and cultural sectors.

Health & Wellbeing Award Finalists

Anthony Venn Brown – for over 20 years of providing leadership and support for LGBTI people of faith and for working to bring ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy practices and organisations to an end in Australia.

Lance Feeney – for over 25 years of providing education, advocacy and support for people living with and affected by HIV.

Mollie Smith – for 20 years of providing support for LGBTI people and their families as founder of the Western Sydney chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

A/Prof Roger Garsia – for making a significant contribution to the understanding of clinical, pathophysiological, treatment and behavioural aspects of HIV/AIDS in those living with HIV and at risk of HIV transmission.

Read about all the ACON Honour Awards winners here

“In a former life Anthony Venn-Brown was a famous preacher in Australia’s mega-churches, such as Hillsong. It was a world that believed homosexuality is a sin and God made gay people straight. After 22 years of struggle he resigned from the ministry and came out. His bestselling autobiography A Life of Unlearning has enabled thousands of LGBT people from Christian backgrounds to find resolution and educated others of their struggle. He co-founded Freedom2b, to provide support for LGBT people from faith backgrounds. Anthony has been at the forefront of ending ex-gay/conversion therapy in Australia through his media work, writing and social networking activities. In 2013 Anthony founded Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International to create understanding and acceptance for LGBT people and empower community members. He continues to create change through behind the scenes dialogues with Christian leaders, churches and denominations and educational programs.”

Acceptance speech

honour 2015 samesame

Photo by Matt Akersten

Firstly I’d like to acknowledge my fellow finalists, Lance, Mollie and Roger for the amazing contribution you’ve made to our community and ACON who give us this opportunity to stop, reflect and say thank you to individuals and organisations each year that are making a difference to the lives of LGBTI people.

It is especially lovely to have my two daughters with me tonight Hannah and Rebekah.

When I began this work 15 years ago I had no idea just how many lives had been damaged by ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy organisations. When my autobiography, A Life of Unlearning, came out I was inundated with emails. Most began with the words “your story is my story”. It was like my inbox became a microscope into a hidden world as 100’s poured their hearts out and told me about their rejection by churches, Christian family and friends, the struggle to reconcile their faith and sexuality and the ongoing impact this was having on their lives.

I set a goal to see all ex-gay organisations in this country closed down and to raise awareness that LGBT people from faith backgrounds are one of the highest risk groups in our community.

In 2000 there were over 40 ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy organisations in Australia. Today there are only a handful remaining and what’s left is substantially weakened.

So now Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International moves on to our next phase and get to the source of the problem. To reach out to churches, Christian leaders and organisations and overcome the ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sometimes people ask why I’m so passionate about this. The answer is simple. “I don’t want one person to live one day in the unnecessary torment I lived in for 22 years”. We do what we do because it’s important and not to receive awards. But thank you for this award tonight and let me finish with the last five words of my autobiography.


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