Existing histories of HIV and AIDS have characterised Australia’s response to the virus as a beacon of progressive public health policy. It is true that the ‘Australian model’ of co-operation between state and federal governments, affected communities and the medical profession was unprecedented at the time. However, there were also coercive, punitive elements of the response from state and federal governments that deserve closer and more critical consideration; from mass testing of Aboriginal communities and prison populations to the use of public health orders to detain and quarantine vulnerable individuals. Through nursing stories, this presentation will consider un-examined elements of the ‘Australian model’, and invites closer scrutiny of how Australia’s response to the virus has been understood by both scholars and the broader public.
Dr Geraldine Fela is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Macquarie University in the Department of History and Archaeology, where she is undertaking a project examining the 1998 waterfront dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia and Patrick Stevedores. Her doctoral research, which she is currently working towards publishing as a monograph, explored the role of Australian nurses and nursing unions in responding to the HIV and AIDS crisis.