CONFIRMED: PAEDOPHILES USING ACON’S FACILITIES
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2011
Sydney activist GARY BURNS has again called for ACON (formerly known as the AIDS Council of NSW) to be shut down, after confirmation that notorious convicted paedophile GEOFFREY LEONARD has been using its facilities.
Mr Burns was approached late last year by several gay community members who had expressed concern that Leonard – who has previously been convicted of raping two minors, and who has advocated a legal age of consent of “at birth” – had been attending workshops at ACON’s premises run by the ‘Sydney Gay Freethinkers’ friendship and support group.
Leonard was attending the Sydney Gay Freethinkers workshop held at ACON’s premises on Monday nights, it was alleged.
ACON, which is funded by taxpayers to the tune of $11.1 million per annum, funds the Sydney Gay Freethinkers through its ‘Hand in Hand’ program and also provides in-kind support such as the use of ACON’s meeting rooms.
ACON CEO NICHOLAS PARKHILL denied the reports at the time, claiming Leonard had never used ACON’s facilities or even been there.
However in a new development, Mr Parkhill has admitted to NSW Health that Leonard had been attending the Sydney Gay Freethinkers workshops at ACON.
In a latter to Mr Burns, DR KERRY CHANT, Deputy Director-General, Population Health and Chief Health Officer, NSW Health, said: “I am advised that the Chief Executive Officer of ACON, Mr Nicolas Parkhill, received confirmation from the coordinator of the ‘Sydney Gay Freethinkers’ group that Mr Geoffrey Leonard was dismissed from the group over two years ago and has not participated in the group since that time.” (See attached letter.)
Mr Burns said ACON kept changing its story, having previously denied Leonard had ever been there at all.
“When I first raised these concerns, ACON’s CEO Nicolas Parkhill said Leonard had never been there. He has maintained that Leonard has never been there. Now he’s telling NSW Health Leonard has been using their premises but not for two years.
“ACON’s excuses keep shifting around like deck chairs on the Titanic. My information is that Geoffrey Leonard has been attending until six months ago, when I first started asking questions.
“ACON must come clean about exactly when and why rock spiders like Geoffrey Leonard have been at ACON.”
Mr Burns said the issue disturbed him because Leonard was not a member of the gay community, and Leonard’s use of gay community facilities reinforced outdated and offensive stereotypes about links between gay men and paedophilia.
“Geoffrey Leonard is not a gay man. He is a paedophile,” said Mr Burns.
“Our community has had to battle for many years stereotypes that gay men are kiddie fiddlers. Yet our self-appointed gay government, ACON, is reinforcing these stereotypes by giving succour to people like Geoffrey Leonard. Why?”
Mr Burns also challenged ACON’s attempt to distance itself from the Sydney Gay Freethinkers group.
“ACON has tried to make out that they have nothing to do with the Sydney Gay Freethinkers group, but the fact is they allow the so-called Freethinkers to use ACON’s premises at 7.30pm each Monday.
“ACON also provides funding to the group through its Hand in Hand programme, which funds community groups.
“This means the NSW taxpayers are funding it, because ACON is funded by NSW Health money and other government grants.”
Mr Burns also challenged ACON’s assertion that there was “no impropriety in [Sydney Gay Freethinkers’] use of ACON premises”.
“How would they know what’s going on at these meetings?” asked Mr Burns.
“They could be grooming young boys for sex. For all they know, Jack the Ripper could be there. Unless ACON is monitoring the meetings, they’d have no idea what goes on there.”
The latest scandal for ACON comes after last month’s bad publicity for the organisation when Burns and other activists questioned ACON’s finances, and a ‘how to use illegal drugs’ guide called Routes of Administration” drew widespread outrage.
As revealed in ACON’s 2009/10 financial report, ACON – which claims to be a ‘GLBT* health and wellbeing organisation’ – spent only $819, 872 on programs and services for the GLBT community, with the rest of its $12,638,998 budget going to areas such as salaries, administration, travel, and unspecified events and activities.
“Between its financial misappropriation, it’s so called harm minimisation guide which gives techniques for snorting, shafting and injecting drugs, and hosting convicted Geoffrey Leonard at workshops, I feel it’s time ACON was shut down and its health promotion work taken over directly by the NSW Government.
“ACON is exactly that – a con. It is a disgrace to our community.”
Acon Letter 1
(02) 9363 0372
0407 910 309
Sydney Gay Freethinkers meeting time and place:
ACON’s Hand in Hand program, which funds the Sydney Gay Freethinkers:
ACON’s Routes of Administration drug booklet:
A copy of ACON’s 2009/10 Financial Report can be accessed by visiting http://www.acon.org.au/about-acon. The report shows that of ACON’s $12,638,998 budget, 88 per cent ($11,145,901) comes from government grants via NSW Health, the NSW Department of Community Services and other government bodies.
Footage – www.aca.com.au
* GLBT = gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans.