Ben Dawson

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Where was home before you came to Cairns?
I’ve lived in Cairns for three months, being new to town! I grew up in Alice Springs, lived in Coffs Harbour for a few years and most recently moved from Darwin – where I’ve spent the last four years. Parallels are often drawn between Darwin and Cairns, because on paper they seem to have similar aspects to them like population size, regional locality, climate, tourism etc. My partner Dallas, who grew up in Darwin, and I moved here be- cause the weather is so much nicer, there’s more to do here and to be honest – we love that there is a huge welcoming LGBTI community here! We’re excited to set our life up here for years to come.

So, what does your new role at QuAC entail?
My role is Health Promotion and Community Development Officer – which is a mouthful – but basically you can break that down into two areas. I work with men who have sex with men or MSM. I see my role as instrumental to supporting the wellbeing and health of
the LGBTI community in North Queensland, while working closely with Brisbane QuAC headquarters to develop health promotion campaigns and incorporate Queens- land’s regional areas.

What made you want to get into the work you’re in?
I spent a lot of time searching for what I wanted to do, from working in community development and so- cial issues with politicians in Alice Springs and Darwin, to working with businesses for the Chamber of Commerce. When I saw the job to apply these roles to the LGBTI com- munity, I thought ‘That is it for me!’.

THERE’S A LOT MORE ACTIVITY (IN CAIRNS) FOR THE LGBTI COMMUNITY THAN I SAW LIVING IN DARWIN OR ALICE SPRINGS.

Why is it so important for a place like Cairns to have a service like the Queensland AIDS Council centre?
Cairns has always had a large local LGBTI community and tourism population. The Queensland AIDS Council was first established in 1984. The Cairns locals recognised something had to be done about the AIDS epidemic which was hospitalising and killing young men in Cairns. Some founding members of QuAC were from Cairns, because they saw a need to respond to an epidemic sweeping across their community. It is important that we continue to provide support to the local LGBTI community in North Queensland, and keep Cairns at the centre of health promotion for good health and wellbeing for our local community.

What are the first steps some- one can take once they consider educating themselves on sexual health and wellbeing?

Guys of all ages are very shy and nervous about taking steps towards exploring their health and their sexual health. The best way to overcome any anxiety is to reach out to anyone who they think can help, and just have a conversation. The best place to speak to a clinician is the amazingly friendly team at Cairns Sexual Health. It’s a free walk-in service. Or, just pop into the QuAC Office anytime for a chat!

How have the locals of Cairns been at welcoming you?

The locals of Cairns of all shapes and sizes have been AMAZING in welcoming me into the community! I’ve had lots of different opportunities to meet everyone, from Out! Parties to the Festival Cairns Street Parade where we had a Pride oat. The LGBTI community in Cairns have a lot of really passionate people who are willing to put a lot of their own personal time aside for; community events, one-on-one sup- port with each other and combining their creative talents for things that benefit the community. I know there are many different committees formed to run events where these talents are put to good use. There’s a lot more activity for the LGBTI community than I saw living in Darwin or Alice Springs.

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