Remembering Joan Golding
12 Jan 2021
This week our community is mourning the death of Joan Golding OAM – life member, fierce ally, and longstanding advocate in the community response to HIV and AIDS.
Joan’s son, Martin Golding, was one of the first people living with AIDS to be appointed to the board of a community-based organisation in Australia when he joined the (then) Victorian AIDS Council. Due to his deteriorating health and eventual death, Martin’s time on the Board was short lived.
Meanwhile, Joan herself became a volunteer with the organisation early on. She became a regular point of contact for family members of people diagnosed with AIDS and helped them navigate difficult conversations.
At that stage, Bill O’Loughlin was part of the Counselling Team. He recalled, “Joan would have participated in a countless number of these conversations over many years to the benefit of so many people with AIDS and their families. The form of support and understanding that Joan offered freely was unique and was strengthened by her remarkable personal manner where, with her calm gentle voice, you felt and knew she was genuine and giving you her full attention.”
David Menadue added, “Joan was a great support to people like my mother – she setup a support group for parents. She would talk to community groups and volunteers. She just had that reassuring voice – she was that calm presence that we needed at that terrible time.”
During that time, David was one of the few people public about living with HIV. He remembers a couple occasions when he and Joan would speak about HIV and AIDS publicly.
“Joan and I were a good team – I was the positive person and she was the mum that experienced it all before – she had a real resonance with people.”
John Hall still works at Thorne Harbour today and he recalls Joan’s power as a public speaker.
“Joan wasn’t afraid to discuss risk behaviours associated with HIV. It often caught people off guard. You wouldn’t expect it from this woman who looked like she could be anyone’s grandmother.”
“That was her power. She was well groomed and well spoken. She always had her hair up in a bun. She would travel across the state and have conversations with family members, health professionals, community groups, and politicians alike.”
John recalls her appearing on television in 1991 on Peter Couchman’s “Couchman Over Australia” during an episode about AIDS at a time when stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS was particularly high.
Thorne Harbour Health’s founding President Phil Carswell spoke about Joan’s presence.
“She disarmed the bigots with kindness and patience and showed true fortitude during the darkest days. I will always remember her knowing smile, her genuine care, and her courage to fight for those without a voice.”
David Menadue recounted Joan’s involvement in the establishment of the Positive Living Centre in an era where no one wanted to lease a property to people with AIDS to use as a community centre.
“She made such a difference. After failed attempts to secure a site in Caulfield, Joan agreed to be a spokesperson with me in a media conference. We explained the injustice and discrimination that the community was showing unnecessarily to people with HIV. It was one of the first community media stories to show the naked discrimination of a Council and local residents against people with HIV. We knew we wouldn’t win there but the publicity led to the wonderful Mayor John Spierings from then St Kilda Council helping us get a space.”
Soon after the Positive Living Centre was established as 46 Acland Street in St Kilda.
“It wasn’t these ‘wild gay boys’, as we were often perceived – it was a respectable mother that got us across the line.”
In an article she wrote for the November 1990 issue of the National AIDS Bulletin Joan wrote, “I am glad to have the opportunity to let people see that this disease can affect any member of the community – even ‘a thoroughly middle class mother’ as Martin used to describe me.”
Joan became a life member of Thorne Harbour in 1992 and received her Medal of the Order of Australia in 1994. She died last week at the age of 98.
PHOTO: As good as Golding, Melbourne Star Observer, n.412 (3 April 1998), p.4 - Courtesy the Australian Queer Archives