35 years of Volunteering for our Communities
17 Jun 2022
Volunteers have been (and continue to be) the lifeblood of the organisations supporting our LGBTIQ+ communities and people living with HIV. At our recent LGBTIQ Organisations Volunteer Event (L.O.V.E.), we celebrated this legacy – including a remarkable 35-year milestone for longstanding volunteer Colin Krycer. We asked Colin about serving his dedicated service of nearly four decades.
Firstly, congratulations on hitting this massive milestone – how does it feel?
Thank you so much. I feel full of pride to be a part of Melbourne’s amazing LGBTIQ community. I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to volunteer beside so many incredible people in many organisations. 35 years has flown by so fast!
Can you recall how your first got involved with Thorne Harbour Health (then the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre)?
I had just moved into my apartment in Elsternwick and I received a phone call from the area coordinator of the Victorian AIDS Council’s Inner South Support Group. Word must have got around that I was new in the area. She asked me if I would consider become a volunteer to support clients with HIV by way of care teams. I agreed to this and that is where it all started. We had regular group meetings, attended training days at Fairfield Hospital and learnt new skills. I became a team leader and with my team, supported our client until he sadly passed away. The AIDS Council did have other volunteer roles but client support was the foremost one. It was a demanding and sad time in our LGBTIQ history.
What organisations have you volunteered with over the years?
I have really enjoyed volunteering, so much so that I have been a part of or helped out as required in several groups and organisations. I am going to try and recall them so here it goes:
- JOY 94.9 – I am one of the very first members and co hosted a disco music program for many years
- Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt – Past convener
- Fantasy Ball and Rainbow Awards – Committee member
- ALEPH Melbourne – Co convener
- AGMC – Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council -Events support
- New Frontier Dance Association – Technical support
- Melbourne Rainbow Band – Technical support
- Pride Foundation Australia – Current board member
And VAC/THH (of course)
What kind of activities have you been involved in throughout your volunteer career?
In my early years as I mentioned, I was placed into a carer situation, giving hands on support to people with HIV/AIDS whether it was taking them shopping or on a social outing to get them out of the house or even to medical appointments.
Somehow, I began to use my audio engineering skills to give support to events and functions but especially anything that was going to benefit the VAC/ THH. I fondly remember helping out other VAC Support Groups with their annual parties and fundraisers. I would support all the World AIDS Day ceremonies, Living Positive Victoria ceremonies in the CBD, and other LGBTIQ charitable events that required sound and lighting. It came to a point that I needed to upgrade my equipment but that’s fine, it gets well used.
Working on the memorable Hard Labour Dance Party at the Melbourne Showgrounds was extremely exciting although I think my nights of staying up until dawn are over.
I can’t continue without mentioning the hilarious Laird Auctions and the annual Northside Bizarre extravaganza. In more recent times I gave audio support for some of the enormous Equal Love rallies in the CBD to help with the fight for equality. Melbourne loves a good protest rally and it was a real buzz being involved with those.
The landscape around HIV and AIDS has changed dramatically in your time as volunteer. What do you think have been some of the most remarkable changes during that time?
The most notable would be the advancements of medications and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS. It is now a totally different scenario for a person with HIV as it is not the death sentence it once was. Those too frequent funerals are a thing of the past and if you have HIV now you are bound to live a long healthy productive life and be able to live life to the fullest. That is a remarkable change from those earlier dark years.
What reflections do you have about our progress as LGBTIQ communities?
Looking back over the decades we have certainly come a long way since the first Mardi Gras protest march in Sydney. We have progressed in leaps and bounds. One example is Marriage Equality. Who would have thought?! Look at today’s advertisements, movies, music, theatre and TV – LGBTIQ themed without fear. There is coming out in sport and an LGBTIQ community group or sporting group for every letter of the alphabet to partake in. It is not the same world I grew up in.
I am also seeing more and more same sex couples walking hand-in-hand in the street. I am painting a rosey picture, I know. It is not all over yet and there is still much to be done.
It saddens me greatly to hear about a recent tragedy of a young man in Melbourne taking his own life because he could not come out to his family – Absolutely heartbreaking beyond belief that this happens today.
You have been behind the scenes for quite a few events over the years – were there any stand out ones that you think back on fondly?
I once gave audio support at a Melbourne Surge Waterpolo Trivia Night at Collingwood Town Hall. Those poor boys could not afford proper clothes and all they had to wear all night were brief Speedos. Very sad but I recall it fondly. The joys of being a volunteer.
If someone was thinking about getting started as a volunteer – what’s one piece of advice you’d have for them?
In two simple words – DO IT! Thorne Harbour Health is a perfect organisation to become a volunteer with. They offer a range of activities within the organisation and also Thorne Harbour Health volunteers are seen lending support to other LGBTIQ events. I keep hearing stories from people that became a Thorne Harbour Health volunteer and never looked back. They really enjoy what they do and also form new friendships and bonds. Personally, I have made the most wonderful friends over the past 35 years of volunteering. There are people from the VAC’s Inner South support group from 35 years ago that I am still close friends with today. Of course, Melbourne does also offer a great range of other LGBTIQ organisations to volunteer with whether it be a support group or sporting group.
With 35 years down – how long do you think you’ll continue to volunteer for?
Volunteering is in my blood; I am sure of that. As long as I am able, I will be there to help out where needed.
Do you have any final thoughts?
In my life as a volunteer, I have had the most amazing experiences and met wonderful people along the journey. My advice to anyone reading this and having thoughts about volunteering, I say, give it a try. Dip your toes in the water. You have nothing to lose but much to gain.