Standing ovations, dignities, celebrities, waiata, opera, torch songs and awards were just part of the programme at last night's Gala Ball marking the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. 380 people packed out the candlelit Auckland Town Hall as the Foundation celebrated its growth into an internationally respected health promotion organisation and awarded Lifetime Memberships and commendations to people who had made especially significant contributions over the years. Ex-Governor General Sir Paul Reeves, a vice patron of the Foundation, received a standing ovation from the predominantly gay black tie “dress to impress” crowd when he observed that “the genius of democracy is observed in the way it treats minorities.” Other dignitaries in attendance included Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard and MPs Tim Barnett nd Judith Tizard. NZAF Board chair Simon Robb recounted the struggles the Foundation faced, particularly in its early days, and the commitment of the small number of people who understood, back then, the threat HIV presented and who worked tirelessly to create a professional and effective response to the epidemic. He noted the deaths of many HIV positive people who had assisted the Foundation over the years, including Bruce Burnett, the gay man who returned from the USA in 1984 to warn New Zealand of the peril the gay community faced. Robb also noted the passing of much-loved positive NZAF staffer Matt White exactly one year ago, and HIV positive Wellingtonian Daniel Fielding who was a tireless supporter - and sometimes critic - of the Foundation and HIV awareness work in the Capital. The tone for the evening was set after a formal welcome by NZAF kaumatua Henare Te Ua, when the lights dimmed and the town hall reverberated to a fanfare played on the civic organ. Seated at tables adorned with flower arrangements and champagne, and served a gourmet meal of poached salmon, braised chicken breast and lamb filets, with petit pours, chocolates and cheeses, the high-spirited crowd was entertained by opera singers including Helen Medlyn and Carmel Carroll, numbers by Christchurch trans-diva Dianne Clark, drag performers, and the repartee of the evening's celebrity MCs, actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand and NZ Idol judge Paul Ellis. Photo montages projected on giant overhead screens captured staff, personalities and highlights of the NZAF's twenty years of fighting intolerance and maintaining a tight control on the spread of HIV in New Zealand. The seven hour event, which doubled as a fundraiser for the non-government funded work of the Foundation, continued past midnight with an extended performance by Cindy of Samoa in her Tina Turner guise, belting out raunchy rock songs while the crowd, which included many delegates to the just-finished Pan Pacific AIDS Conference, partied and danced on the strobe-lit town hall dancefloor.
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Saturday, 29th October 2005 - 12:00pm
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