Remembering Bruce Burnett

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:05] I am Kate Leslie, I'm going to tell you about Bruce Bennett. [00:00:11] In 1984, I was the Social Media Manager at Oakland hospital. Bruce had returned from San Francisco in 1983, knowing that he had HIV, and [00:00:26] he was unwell and depressed and most happy. And it was not until 84 that he kind of resurfaced and renewed and was imbued with the zeal to do something about HIV AIDS in New Zealand. I first met him in August of 84, when he came to the STD department to a monthly meeting the end. The can they may live in New York, and the infectious diseases furnishings. And he came to talk to us about HIV AIDS and his experience in San Francisco. And with the chante project, in the urgency for [00:01:19] gathering information in presenting it to the gay community. [00:01:25] And after that meeting, we stayed on and chatted to one another. And Bruce said, Well, I know all about HIV and AIDS in the shanty program, and you seem to know about the health system and counseling, the heat within debt, could we work together? [00:01:48] That would be a good idea that seemed appealing and interesting. And we did. From the end, we spent time together looking at what what to was needed. And what Bruce appointed to do, [00:02:04] aimed at the social work department was in what had been [00:02:09] the nooses home education hospital was at large, this LinkedIn large outbreak building, with individual offices that have been people's bedrooms, and a huge room at the end, which should be in the common room in so I made that available [00:02:26] for gatherings. And [00:02:32] before that, Bruce set up a training session, which I see you good outcome to this. And there was silence and [00:02:43] this was the main who were interested in is it Oh, that that's alright, nevermind. [00:02:48] And indeed work that you could come on this Saturday, [00:02:54] which I did. And then there was an agreement that that I seem to know right piece and then I could stay. And from then on we we adapted the Shadi program with the age of Ray Taylor and Salman rasa, into an increasing band of people training, working learning to be there to support people with HIV AIDS, can [00:03:16] you describe what the shanty program is what it was, it [00:03:19] was a counseling in support program that they'd come by in San Francisco where they must have been inundated with people in the course without our support services. here for, for ill people. So they would have been maligned on on volunteers to do shopping, support people, I mean, you look at health costs, the people who have private health care will do so much and they will rely on their friends to, [00:03:55] to support it and in sustain them into it. That was, you know, many people, many people Ellen dying. [00:04:07] And that's what Bruce and Ray and others had come back to New Zealand with their research that we we needed to adapt. Bruce's, Bruce's background was he had been a pastry chef. And he'd set up [00:04:24] a number of places, Not Just Desserts, which was very famous in Oakland and others [00:04:32] is actually one of the way people used to say to me an adequate, nice, Bruce does the cooking and I eat it is a wonderful cook. [00:04:38] But he he [00:04:42] he traveled, he traveled about talking in engaging the gay community in in what was necessary to to preserve and save the health, the department of health wise in [00:05:00] making a pee pee appointment and giving him a job as an AIDS liaison officer in giving him a space in [00:05:08] in Oakland, to do that, which gave him an income and enabled him to, to carry on Do not be reliant on the gay community. But the gay community were wonderful. They had put money in and enabled us to make the early pamphlets of the teddy bears in the traffic lights to get the information out to the gay community boosting urgency about that, that, that people desperately needed to know what was safe six, and what wasn't. For my background, I was able to contribute. Well, if we're going to do this, we have to do it properly. And we have to do this in words, one syllable that people understand. I had seen too much in the health system. We are we're a clinicians gave people information about medicines, treatments, in, in medical, [00:06:13] some Latin phrases and other language in the people smiled and said thank you and took whatever it was they were being given. And they've been to a having not understood a word. And at times quite misused, for they've been given is was very evidence to contraception when people came back pregnant and they didn't want to be, but they hadn't understood the tool, how they were to take these tablets. So I said if we're going to do this, with the bees, in particularly with the traffic lights, we need to be very plain and use language that people are no doubt about. This is unsafe six, do not do this. This is safe stakes, change your ways. In due date. Bruce continued from his position there to, to speak on radio, and television, to speak to groups. He was a very charismatic, engaging delight for men and people boomed to him engaged, [00:07:26] supported his courage and being out in speaking about himself in his shoes. And they they admired his bravery. So whole other people who might have been otherwise [00:07:39] standoffish and not supportive here, Bruce was able to indeed, and by virtue of his personality, and his commitment and commitment to the public, [00:07:52] I guess, at this stage as well that, you know, you're talking 1984 so it was still illegal homosexual. Yeah. [00:08:01] And was Bruce also out in terms of having aids, [00:08:06] or HIV, HIV is he was he was playing about that he was playing about his, his sexual orientation. And as I said, people, people want and admired that. He wasn't he was an honest person, and raging and engaging people, and giving people people had, you know, the media information about HIV AIDS. And one of Bruce's major things was the era management, because people were just so frightened, in head, all sorts of fears and worries and babies and extraordinary things. And what was at task was to get the facts clearly, and present them in a way that we could say, No, this is people had notions, that kind of that HIV was floating through the air, or you were going to catch from Captain sources or shaking hands, or the swimming bowl, or [00:09:11] food, whatever. And we needed to one by one, dispel all these things, and Bruce was very good plane, eight doing date in traveling around and talking to gay men and encouraging them to, to change their behavior, by of course, bit by but I mean, the meat efforts he made, told on his, his health. And he had, he had been engaging with the Department of Health and lobbying the government and aware that if we were to continue here, we needed an organization and we needed the government to come on board [00:09:52] and get funding, so that we could do things other than by that, that goodness of heart of the game community in contributing. So the health department gave money, and we made this initial campaign, that that was very accurate, scientifically. But [00:10:13] Bruce, what did you engage with, with whoever was there that would listen, as well as the gay community because we needed the wider the wider community needed. And as well, if we were to [00:10:25] combat [00:10:27] HIV AIDS, and at that time, [00:10:30] sexuality was still [00:10:33] illegal. So for many people, to get a demon to get the information we were aware [00:10:42] was a danger to them in which is why we priest for the the the public information campaign, that winter newspapers, so that everyone could be seen to be reading this, rather than someone picking up a brochure and other people saying why why would you have been interested in [00:11:02] in debt, which may have impinged on the relationship with the the job or the status in society. So [00:11:14] our aim until we virtually got the law reform was, was to preserve people's [00:11:21] privacy and in a dignity and Bruce was at the front, they're [00:11:29] not doing any of those things, and calling upon people to refer to people, which I rarely hear. [00:11:37] How did how did Bruce interact with the medical profession? How did they see him? [00:11:43] Are they they, he was engaging and charming, but he was also brave. And they appreciated that they also appreciated that he was this massive Scourge from abroad. [00:11:57] England, we looked at the numbers that were pretty directed at, this would have been a huge cost to the public health budget in so they were supportive. [00:12:10] If If Bruce with his efforts could bring about some changes, could [00:12:17] end, some assistance at the education campaign could bring about helping people make changes in their behavior in all of that would reduce the the incidence in New Zealand in the impact on the on the health costs, and debts not just Penny pinching budget, that means that there was enough resources to go around to actually care adequately for people both in hospital staging and they needed or in the community if they needed support there. So any inroads we were able to make in, [00:12:55] in reducing the incidence, we're we're all to the first of all, [00:13:01] it must have taken a huge toll on Bruce, I'm just thinking in kind of 84, at an early part of 85, we're, you know, for anyone to be establishing a network, a nationwide network of people that would voluntarily support and educate about HIV AIDS, it must have taken a huge toll on [00:13:23] his his dad, and he put so much energy into that. And, and I think by his example, a whole range of people from every walk of life in occupation, were [00:13:38] encouraged, driven some to to make a contribution. [00:13:44] And that was largely down to him. [00:13:48] Some people actually was surprised that they ended up doing this, this was right out of the comfort zone, but, but he was this brave person saying, Come on your own need to be proud of this, we need, we will need a whole lot of people to help we need people to educate, you will need to do a piece here to to help don't leave it to don't leave it to the medical profession, don't leave it to a few we need to do this, the gay community needs to do this, we need to engage other people and tell them it's it's safe to be involved into the end, he was quite brilliant at doing this and the right support network and eventually the foundation artists to minister there it you know, he was somebody who gave the all to the end of the life to to fight to further the cause into work for [00:14:49] for the lifestyle back back for public health for safety like that this is safe sakes, do these behaviors don't do to these change, change your ways stay alive. Because at that point in time, they were no, there was no hope they were no medications. This was if you had HIV, and you were going to get AIDS Dean, Dean, you are going to die is many young leaders and does both the many of those, and men died, you know, around 30. But they were they were pretty dark in certain challenging times is in, in socially. [00:15:39] really tragic times as well, I can I can think of Bruce and I being in one funeral where was a young person had died. And the whole funeral was addressed to auntie and the same loss of her nephew. And they was sitting the partner of 1520 years. Time ignored, never once mentioned, never acknowledged and in so wrong and so awful. And so bruising that this was with galvanizing ourselves a bit more to to we have to do better than this. We have to we have to make this we have to get your changes. And we have to make this safe for people to stand up and own one another end and be proud of who they are and in support one another in in death if that's weird. [00:16:32] That's legally [00:16:35] Bruce passed away. And on the first of June 1985. Yeah. How did that affect you? [00:16:42] a devastating, devastating that was a loss of a really important person in my life. And [00:16:50] avenging Bruce's funeral was most interesting because his family were were conservative people. And they [00:16:57] they didn't beyond Bruce, they didn't know anything of the gay community. And so they they thought maybe they have a private [00:17:06] Trimble, I didn't explain that I thought then [00:17:12] they would need to be another one. Because the guy came in wanted to come together to honor him for what he had done. Until eventually the family thought about it and said, No, no, they needed just to be one. [00:17:26] And we know that that was a huge farewell and thanksgiving in the family after that, see how wonderful it was to meet. All those old guys mean, they had not realized we were out there. And we're so ordinary, and [00:17:44] we're so much out of their lives, probably that they hadn't known about or seen or thought of a and and Bruce it, he'd lead the way in, in making that possible and with reform for people to be out invisible, and to be safe. [00:18:07] And that was his that was his gift. [00:18:08] He also drove you in a direction that maybe you [00:18:12] got there was a heavily gang along in my surgery department. And my life took off in a totally other direction. And what began is Yes, we'll do a bit of observation of this and we'll do a bit of counseling kind of grew like the snowball rolling down the hill end up became more and more in the in the speaking and support of Bruce in the the training and the influence, he could see that [00:18:43] he was not going to be able to sustain this he was becoming ill to say [00:18:50] here we are, we've got this far you need to hold on to the public health see that this is not siphoned off by people who think oh, this is a good bandwagon. Let's get on it. And hold on to this and hold on to everyone else and [00:19:06] keep this going into focus and into we've made some success in the diminishment of HIV AIDS in New Zealand and [00:19:18] I was patent pleased to do that on his behalf. But certainly I'll did my life. [00:19:24] So this is where the museum notes [00:19:26] foundations for Yes, came about and in 1986 and [00:19:33] I was the first year of it and stayed there until 1988 when when there were enough [00:19:41] great people around in a we'd gained enough strength and I passed on the banner and it's gone from strength to strength since [00:19:53] and it must have been really neat to see that actually the the first aid clinic in New Zealand [00:19:59] nice that we set up the the Auckland hospital would be supportive. Dr. Lucy Hanuman, the medical superintendent in chief, [00:20:08] and movie who'd been the medicine and chief and in [00:20:13] one of the management of the board, very supportive and helpful in [00:20:20] any minute given an output building and kitchen a street for the use of the AIDS network to meet and to see people in the inside the hospital would have find a space for us to make it clinic because we could see that it couldn't be on the lines of the usual outpatient clinic reset and Siri Rosen someone chemical name in a loud voice. [00:20:48] No one was going to come. [00:20:51] So we we had some challenging times to find a space. [00:20:58] Drunk use those words, decorator [00:21:02] divides the spaces and decorators at wonderfully and Michael basic opened h clinic and we were able to call it the the Bruce Bennett clinic. And we were able to assure people of the anonymity and the privacy [00:21:22] so that it was safe for people to come and get tested because what we wanted was was for people to come and get tested. And that was a pretty scary proposition. Then seeing the benign medications and no vaccines or anything. And in this was a this was a dire prognosis. And in we wanted to be assured that we inaccurate test and that [00:21:55] we were providing prior into post can counseling of a very high standard into people's privacy was protected. They could come and go from the building an absolute discretion and they would be given sufficient counseling to support them in to provide whatever resources they they needed. [00:22:20] What if a diagnosis that they got from the test so we will be proud of it? Yeah. [00:22:26] And Bruce would have been proud and there he is on the wall. There.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.