Message of endorsement from the Speakers Bureau Patron
Benjamin Franklin once said that every New Year should find you a better person. Considering the scope of Franklin’s achievements, it seems that he had little trouble living by this maxim. He was a true polymath; an accomplished politician, diplomat, author and scientist. Franklin invented the lightning rod and established the first public lending library in America. Even in 1731, the importance of learning being accessible to everyone was considered by Franklin to be a necessity, and our endeavours in educating and informing the wider community about HIV are just as important today. So as we face a new decade, we might consider whether we have become better year-by-year, as individuals, or as a society.
I can proudly say that the individuals who make up the PLHIV Speakers Bureau have again shown their betterment, through their achievements, and the energy and spirit they have expended on their personal development. As a result, we are seeing increasingly higher quality presentations delivered to audiences through a range of technologies throughout Victoria.
Highlights of speakers’ achievements include the many presentations given in schools, workplaces and community groups, and to no greater or lesser extent, the inspiring presentations of our speakers at Parliament House on World AIDS Day. Each of these speaking engagements demands skill, insight and a hearty measure of courage.
As if speaking to a live audience is not enough of a challenge, PLHIV speakers were asked to front the video camera recently, to share their personal stories. Now, the ‘television studio’ environment is harsh and intimidating, and for our speakers to have delivered their disarmingly honest and touching stories with such professionalism and honesty, is a tribute to the agency’s and the speakers’ growth.
Our speakers are becoming better presenters, and through their work helping achieve greater understanding and tolerance in our communities – yes, like Benjamin Franklin, better year by year. You can now share their presentations on DVD and biographies on the PLWHA Victoria website. I have watched these on-screen testimonials many times, yet am still deeply moved by the selflessness and honest motivations of each speaker. What is unspoken in the stories is the trust that the speakers have shown in us – trust that we will cherish their words, and put them to good use.
A good measure of our meeting Franklin’s challenge may be, whether we have become more caring and tolerant as a society. Are we free of the prejudices and discriminations that diminish our communities, and have we made real progress in education and fostering tolerance? As a society, we have shown some improvement from the dark days of unabashed intolerance, but we still have a long way to go in protecting the health of existing and future generations. The current rate of HIV infection can be partly attributed to the lack of attention given to preventive health education in the past.
Still, in the case of Australia’s HIV Positive community, there is much to be celebrated. Here we have a group of people who have provided a vital support system, effective advocacy and who work tirelessly to disseminate knowledge that will help positive members, as well as educating the wider community.
Our family of speakers includes mums, dads, teenagers, medical professionals, academics, theologians and athletes.
To quote another of Franklin’s maxims, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. PLHIV speakers are part of that investment, and working to better themselves, and society, year by year.