Strong and Powerful: Remembering the Age of AIDS

This exhibition, presented for World AIDS Day 2019, brings together posters, artworks and ephemera drawn from personal collections that capture the community-lead response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and 90s in Australia.

27 November - 13 December 2019

Level 5 Main Library

The personal and collective voices featured in Strong and Powerful: Remembering the Age of AIDS continue to shape the Australian understanding of HIV/AIDS and reveal the enduring impact and memory of this public response within the affected communities.

The Australian response in the initial years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is recognised as one of the most successful in the world. Its effectiveness was largely due to the collaborative nature of the public response, delivered in partnership between government, the medical profession and the gay community. Trust was placed in the affected communities to craft messages that would reach their intended audiences through the AIDS Councils of each state.

In an Australia that was still hostile towards homosexuality, many of the campaigns and posters were not widely circulated, and instead designed to be encountered only by those within the most at-risk communities: gay men, sex workers and users of injecting drugs. As a result, a vernacular emerged that embraced direct, sex-positive messages and imagery as well as employing a characteristic wit, humour and sarcasm. Beyond government-published campaigns, much of the art and media produced within the affected communities displayed this same sharpness; a resilience in the face of tragedy and grief.

Image gallery

Events from this exhibition

Opening event

Strong and Powerful: Remembering the Age of AIDS was opened by Professor Eileen Baldry and Associate Professor Leong Chan.

Event was held on Wednesday, 27 November 2023.