Leadership comes in many forms
Ms Patricia Kennedy OAM is the Patron of unUsual Risks Insured Australia
In June 2003 she was formally recognised by the Australian Government and awarded the OAM for her tireless and persistent services to the community as an advocate for people with HIV/AIDS, particularly through the provision of support services.
She and other award recipients are listed on the Australian Government’s Official Award Database.
- In January 2014 Patricia graciously accepted our request to become our Patron and Brand Ambassador.
Every story has a beginning
In the 1980’s the world was just waking up to the reality of how unprepared we all were for the condition that was to become known as HIV. The 80’s and 90’s saw an explosion of fear and discrimination around HIV, that sadly still scars many people today.
Discrimination and stigma around HIV continues today
In many ways, the discrimination surrounding this, now chronic yet manageable medical condition, continues today, to unfairly isolate people from friends, family and even important services. Such barriers can even be found in the professional services community. And frankly, this is unacceptable.
Mrs Patricia Kennedy is part of our back-story. Today she continues to inspire us to stand up and play our part in working against the effects of discrimination and ignorance by ensuring that all Australian’s with a pre-existing medical condition, have equal access to life insurance, free of these barriers.
Her story in her words
In the 1980’s, Patricia became part of a Sydney city based team of volunteers providing in-house care for those dying of AIDS. She immediately insisted on providing care for those who lived in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, where in her words, “there was nothing for people in similar circumstances to those in the city”.
"This was well before there was even a hint of the medical breakthroughs to come that today, have transformed a positive HIV diagnosis, from a death sentence, into a manageable lifelong medical condition."
The biggest handicap
When it came to services for HIV-positive people and their families, in the beginning, there was nothing—and the biggest handicap was people's prejudice.
"I believe that we all need to educate ourselves about HIV and learn how to be non-judgemental—because everybody is different. Ignorance is usually where discrimination starts."
"If someone believes a person has HIV, they usually make two quick assumptions; how they got it and what their lifestyle is. If it’s a male it must be someone who’s gay, if they’re married they must have had a boyfriend, if they’re a female, she’s either been using drugs or she’s been playing around."
"But none of us truly know what happens in the lives of people and all of our assumptions could be totally wrong. And does it matter anyway?"
"I think it’s sad that some people have to live a lie around people who they should be able to trust. How bad are we as a broader community- that we’re going to judge our friends when something is not acceptable to us? And half of the time it’s through our ignorance."
Setting the record straight
When asked about the public recognition for her services to the HIV Community, she is quick to set the record straight.
The Real Heroes
"The real heroes were those young guys who were sick themselves and who turned up and helped care for those who were dying. When I was doing in-home care, volunteers would usually be young men aged from 19 to around 30 yrs old who also had the virus and were aware their own time was limited yet spent that time to help care for someone who was ‘this poor skeletal person’, who was slowly dying a terrible death. In many cases these volunteers became the ones we were caring for, these were the true heroes."
"Today it’s important for people to understand, that a lot of the laws that were changed, a lot of the new disability support services that were started, were due to the efforts of a lot of other young men with the virus who spent their time taking on the politics of it all and they contributed so much knowing that they weren't going to be around to get the benefit from what they were achieving for others."
"They also were heroes' – these young men were what influenced me more than anything. There were just so many of them and it’s a shame because you can’t remember all their names, but you remember just so much about them."
"Over time those who survived have had the benefit of the new medical breakthrough treatments which came along and they responded well and get on with their lives. Their contribution is not forgotten."
"Now to me, they were heroes - they were never acknowledged, they were taken for granted. They could have just as well stayed at home, they could have taken the attitude that ‘I might not have much life left so while I’m feeling OK, I’m going to do something else’. But they gave up their remaining time to serve others, and they’re the one who should never be forgotten."
In July 2014, unUsual Risks began filming a mini-documentary, The Story of Patricia', that follows her story and her service to the community.
The fascinating audio interview of that recording has now been made into a compelling 4 part radio show and you can listen to it on Soundcloud .