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NZAF Annual General Meeting 2006

Sat 2 Dec 2006 In: HIV View at Wayback View at NDHA

NZAF Board Chair Jeremy Lambert with his partner Romeo (left) and Miss Queenie Aotearoa (right). HOW DID THE MEETING GO? It was a long Sunday afternoon, but a highly productive one, says NZAF Board Chair Jeremy Lambert. “Because of the compassion and patience of our members, and the focus on the bigger issues, we saw that a comprehensive, forward-focused membership can deliver excellent results.” KEEPING THE FOCUS ON GAY MEN “For the very first time in our history, we have a clear indication from our members that they want our prime focus to be on men who have sex with men,” says Lambert. The organisation will also continue to support the delivery of programmes to other most-at-risk communities and continue to provide care and support services to all communities infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. “There were three other options that would have considerably narrowed the focus and restrict the NZAF's ability to support any other programmes for any other most at risk audiences. Another option was a lot more general; it didn't have a gay/MSM focus. I think that would have been quite problematic for us as an organisation, given our history, and given the way the epidemic is affecting men who have sex with men more than anybody else,” he explains. “The decision essentially reflects what we do at the moment.” There are six ‘out' gay men currently on the NZAF Board, so there can be no mistaking that the leadership of the NZAF is very much about men who have sex with men, Lambert insists. “Our prevention programmes are primarily focused on men who have sex with men, however we also support the African refugee and migrant programme, in terms of developing a specific programme for the African communities in New Zealand." Lambert makes it clear the NZAF cannot be the leader in supporting other communities affected by HIV/AIDS. “We do not purport to be experts in the African Communities, for example. “But at the same time, we have our organisation available to support work being conducted in those communities. So the African programme has it's own leadership group, made up of members from the African community, determining the approaches which are best for their communities. Fears that the NZAF might channel resources into other communities, leading to a weakened support for gay and bisexual men in the fight against HIV, are unfounded, says the Chair. In fact, the organisation benefits from involvement with other community groups. “The irony is that the wider organisation benefits far more, resource-wise, from the African Refugee Migrant Programme than the other way around. In fact, we receive specific funding for that programme, which is also used to support overheads for the wider organisation.” SUPPORT FOR THE PACIFIC ISLANDS The majority of voters at the AGM believed that the NZAF should use its resources to support our near neighbours outside New Zealand when needed. Lambert says our Pacific neighbours have frequently invited them in to assist in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Viewing HIV as only a domestic problem is short-sighted: “We have close interrelationships through travel, and through family living in New Zealand, and that requires us to be a little bit more outward looking,” he says. Until now, the NZAF has had to be strict on limiting its activities to New Zealand. “The board is suggesting going forward that we should have some involvement with the pacific,” Lambert explains. “But that comes with certain conditions. It's not to detract resources away from other programmes which we are required to deliver, should as our prevention programmes for men who have sex with men. “There's also a financial threshold limit, so we can't spend more than five percent of our resources in areas outside New Zealand. Otherwise, we would have problems with our charitable status.” Lambert believes other HIV/AIDS charities have attempted to institute programmes in neighbouring countries to the detriment of core business in their home nation – he makes it clear that on a practical level, the NZAF will assist other countries when invited to help. “We do quite often get invited to assist our Pacific Island brothers and sisters. They say they're just starting out, and they just need help for example with establishing our governance, or core organisation processes, or delivering programmes to fa'afafine. “Now, we are able, within reason, to take up some of those offers.” UNCERTAINTY OVER BICULTURALISM NZAF members decided at the meeting to remove all references to the Treaty in it's constituation, and instead make a ‘commitment to biculturalism and working with Maori'. Lambert admits the board is going to need far more clarification from the NZAF's membership as to exactly what the AGM decision means. “I'm fairly uncertain over what support for this option means, and I think we'll have to go back to our membership and do quite a bit of work around what a commitment to biculturalism specifically means, and working with Maori,” he says. “I don't know if that was intended by our membership, but I would argue that a commitment to biculturalism means a stronger emphasis on things Maori than we had in the past by just by referencing the Treaty.” NZAF STAFF: MEMBERSHIP AND VOTING The meeting voted the NZAF staff can become members of the Foundation, but should not be able to vote on aspects of board membership or employment-related matters. There are still some questions about this decision, says Lambert. “There will be some sort of restricted form of membership for staff. The legal opinion is adamant that we should not make membership automatic by staff – people should be able to ‘opt on', preferably by paying some sort of membership fee. “What's clear is that our staff are important and they do need some sort of influence – we just need to be clear on what sort of influence that is.” THE INTERNET DATING CHALLENGE Early in the afternoon, co-founder of the NZAF Bill Logan challenged the assembled meeting to come to terms with internet dating's influence on our sexual culture. Lambert says the first moves have already been made. “Just this year, the board has made extraordinary funding confirmations for greater involvement with the internet.” The site www.menseekingmen.co.nz has been created, and NZAF is placing advertising with GayNZ.com and NZDating. “While we've done that,” continues Lambert, “we perhaps haven't appreciated all the other things we can be doing in the area. “We need to be establishing a social movement again. Not just relying on advertisements, but relying upon strength in the community. It's a return to how the Foundation used to be. We need to regather community energy. That's the challenge Bill's posing, and I think he's right to be posing it at this time.” Note: The decisions made at the Annual General Meeting are not yet binding – the board now has to turn the voting outcomes into practical steps forward. Written submissions will now be sought, particularly from those who didn't favour the options selected at the AGM. Then, constitutional clauses will be put towards the membership at a future Special General Meeting. Matt Akersten - 2nd December 2006    

Credit: Matt Akersten

First published: Saturday, 2nd December 2006 - 12:00pm

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