VALE Phil Carswell OAM

The entire team at Living Positive Victoria join the Victorian HIV community in acknowlegement of the sudden passing of Phil Carswell OAM.

Our thoughts go out to his loving partner Ian Cherry (pictured on left) and to his friends and family. Phil Carswell was a giant of our Victorian response to HIV and AIDS. As a founding member of the Victorian AIDS Action Council and the Victorian AIDS Council, he was pivotal in creating the foundations of the government and community partnership that we sometimes take for granted forty years on. An energetic and determined strategic thinker with the heart of a giant, he was integral in the development of the Victorian AIDS Ministerial Advisory Committee under then Health Minister Caroline Hogg.

Phil Carswell and Tom Carter held the first Melbourne AIDS Candlelight Vigil on a rainy day in 1985 on the upper level of platform 14 of Flinders Street Station (now the site of Federation Square).  Just the two of them, with candles, to mark the many lives already lost. Within five years, this vigil had grown to a crowd of 10,000 Victorians marching united in remembrance and hope during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic in Australia.

Living Positive Victoria is proud to carry on that legacy via the annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial which will carry even more significance when we meet this year on Sunday 19 May.

LPV CEO Richard Keane recalls: “I first met Phil Carswell when I lived with Tom Carter and Steven Braithwaite and they were all on the Candlelight Vigil Committee. I attended committee meetings, absorbing the core values, integrity and sense of purpose that has underpinned my own leadership to this day. The privilege of listening and learning and seeing the cogs of the machine gaining momentum was transformative for me. What made it even more important was seeing how the impact of a person living with HIV could be so pivotal in the development of a community-led response. Nothing about us without us? It wasn’t always that way, it was fought for. Within just two years of that meeting, I found myself on the AIDS Ministerial Advisory Committee. I am so lucky that I had the opportunity to thank him on numerous occasions for his contribution, mentorship and modelling of the way forward for myself and others in authentic HIV lived experience leadership.  Like many of his generation, Phil had many long-term health issues that impacted his quality of life. He met them head on with that same purpose, dignity and resilience. It was wonderful to see Phil play such a huge part in the 40th year celebrations of Thorne Harbour Health (formally the Victorian AIDS Council). His speech at the Ruby Red Ball was steeped in the legacy of activism and acknowledgment of the efforts of those gone before and the place in history of those long-term survivors and our valued allies that remain to bare witness to the extraordinary challenges of that time”.

Rest in Power Phil Carswell.

Living Positive Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where we work and live. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We celebrate the stories, culture and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of all communities who also work and live on this land.