Veteran AIDS activist Phil Carswell dead at 70


phil carswell
Image: Facebook

Phil Carswell, veteran AIDS activist, has died aged 70, leaving husband Ian and a powerful legacy from his decades of advocacy for equality in all shapes and forms.

Friends remembered him on social media for his leadership in the early days of the AIDS crisis in Victoria. Phil became the convenor of the Victorian AIDS Action Committee in 1983 and the inaugural President of the Victorian AIDS Council the following year.

A friend from those days remembered how he kept going in the face of unbearable grief.

“He led our community through the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, with unflagging energy and optimism, despite the heavy burden of grief he carried as many of his closest friends died.”

Phil Carswell moved to Brisbane, where he worked for Queensland Health.

Advocate for equality

Friends remembered him as a dedicated unionist and diehard Labor man. He advocated for equality for all people and in all things and took a prominent role in campaigns, including same-sex marriage and the reform of various Queensland laws.

Long-time friend and former President of Brisbane Pride Festival and QC (formerly QuAC) Peter Black took to Facebook to reminisce.

“Very sad news that a dear friend and a legend of HIV and LGBTIQ community advocacy, Phil Carswell OAM, passed away this morning.

“In 1983, Phil was a founding member and the inaugural President of the Victorian AIDS Council and over the past four decades was unwavering in his political advocacy for the communities he cared so much about.

“When I was in Queensland, I had the privilege of campaigning alongside him on marriage equality, age of consent laws, expungement of historic gay sex offences and other law reforms. It was during this time we became friends.

“Before I moved to Canberra, we’d regularly catch up somewhere nice for lunch. We’d mainly chat about politics and gossip a little (he had a wicked sense of humour) but I also learnt so much about the community response to HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 90s during those lunches. Although some of these stories were of dark and sad times, I always left feeling inspired and motivated. Anything seemed possible after a chat with Phil.”

A fighter and campaigner

“Phil led an extraordinary life and made a remarkable contribution that improved the lives of so many people in our diverse communities. He was a fighter and campaigner to the end and he will be deeply missed, especially by his loving husband Ian.”

Phil Carswell R.I.P. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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1 Comment

  1. Ken Munsie
    18 March 2024
    Reply

    Phil was a fearless campaigner for the Positive community here in Qld … I remember with affection working closely with him during the turbulent QuAC years in the 90’s … and read of his departure with sadness … Ken

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