Hamish Allardice: "A good listener, an active member"
By Jay Bennie
14th November 2007 - 09:27 pm
Five gay men are standing for positions on the Trust Board of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. Wellington's Hamish Allardice is one who feels he can make a contribution.
Allardice was raised in Mangatu, an hour west of Gisborne, but has spent a good part of his adult life living in Auckland and the Capital where he is currently a senior Operator with the Ministry for the Environment where he spends his time connecting with other government departments. Before that, he managed his own business and the Wellington YHA for thirteen years.
He's currently serving on the Sustainable Business Network regional board, though "it's more an advisory board than a governance type of thing."
Pressed to name a few people who have had an influence on his life, Allardice remembers back a few years to the funeral of a man, "I can't for the life of me remember his name, but all his staff stood up and said what an extraordinary person he was and how it was a pleasure to work with him and how he created a wonderful team atmosphere. He worked for a government department and I can remember thinking that he was pretty exceptional and that I'd love to model myself on him in terms of being a boss."
But after short pause, Allardice digs deeper to several men who succumbed to AIDS in the earlier stages of the HIV epidemic. "My real inspiration would have to be Rudy ten Have. Rudy died about sixteen years ago and he and I used to hang out together with his partner, Noddy. The three of us were all good mates living in Auckland."
"Rudy became HIV positive and went to Hanmer," a now closed hospital treating alcohol and drug dependence, "to clean up, says Allardice. "Then Noddy and I went and got our tests - I came back negative and Noddy came back positive. We had all done all kinds of things together, as you did in those days, so it was a little bit of fate that I didn't get to be positive myself." Both Rudy and Noddy embarked on cleaning drugs out of their lives, "and I thought I can either wait until I get the virus or I can do something about it now." So Allardice himself checked into Hanmer. "I've been clean for nineteen years now, and I'm still not HIV positive. So Rudy was a positive man who really changed my life."
In those early days of the epidemic, about 22 years ago, Allardice also undertook AIDS education training at Auckland's Burnett Clinic, as it was then called. "I remember being at the opening of the Clinic and making scones... they weren't very good scones, I was using a lot of drugs in those days! But at the opening I met a man called Dick Johnston when we were doing the training about how to go out talking in schools and community groups. Dick was a recovering alcoholic and I remember listening to his stories and thinking 'Oh my God, I think he's telling my story.' So there was kind of a turning point for me there as well."
Allardice eventually washed up Wellington "and I've done all sorts of things over the years. I was part of the original group that set up Devotion - that was an AIDS Foundation fundraiser way back eighteen or nineteen years ago. Since then I've been with various groups, I was treasurer for the Lesbian and Gay Fair for three years and I've run a fundraising stall for about eleven years."
How does he believe the NZAF is perceived by NZ men who are at risk of getting HIV? "It's a little bit invisible and... not irrelevant, but not particularly relevant. As it's been funded more its become less visible and less a part of the community." It's that community connection he would like to see restored in the coming years, with the NZAF doing "more to become an active member of the community - and an essential part of our community." He is deeply concerned that people are still becoming HIV positive. "I mean, we've got a whole new generation of people who have grown up without losing loved ones... and that seems to be part of the problem."
And he believes its not only the NZAF that has to re-connect. "The community must get active in the Foundation too, you can't blame the Foundation for everything."
Other than that, Allardice says he personally doesn't have any "grand plans" should he be elected to the board. He is content to be "a team member, a team player. I'll work with the collective conscience and try to listen to the community that I have access to in Wellington here and try to represent the views of that wider community." He will not commit himself further: "I don't have access to the information the board is currently being given to make decisions - I don't really know yet."
As for being based in Wellington, slightly removed from the NZAF's Head Office and Auckland's unenviable position as the city which has disproportionately more new HIV infections than anywhere else in the country, Allardice sees some possible advantages in that. "Perhaps I can bring a different viewpoint, I can be a neutral ground. I can build some bridges to those who are feeling aggrieved or unheard. Is a geographic spread of NZAF trustees a good thing? "Potentially yes, but its really all about the skills of the individuals and what they bring."
As this is after all an election, and the NZAF members are probably already considering whether to cast a vote in his favour, so does he have a one sentence election slogan to put out there? He does, and it's short and simple: "I'm a good listener and an active member."
[Editor's note: The membership of the NZ AIDS Foundation will gather for their annual AGM on 24 November to elect four new board members. Those standing are Hamish Allardice, Peter Browne, Larry Jenkins, Grant Robertson and Peter Taylor. GayNZ.com extended invitations through the NZAF to all five candidates, but to today's date only three have contacted us for interviews. An interview with Larry Jenkins is linked below, our third and final interview, with Peter Taylor, will be featured in a few days' time.]
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