Pride in Diversity and the Taxpayer’s Dollar

$17 Million in Grants

In 2021, ACON, the AIDS Council of NSW, received $16.9 MILLION in grant money. ACON’s principal objective is “Ending HIV transmission among gay men and other homosexually active men“.

Clarification Added 26 April 2022

The $16,905,777 grant income is made up of:

  • NSW Health: $12 639 286
  • Local Health: $584 291
  • Other grants: $3 682 200 (not specified in ACON’s annual report)

Almost $2M in Badge Money

In the same year, members of ACON’s Pride in Diversity program paid over $1.9 Million for the privilege of calling themselves members of the scheme.

Each standard membership is $6600. I’ve made my calculations on the basis that all 296 members paid the same.

They have a sample business case on their website to help you convince your bosses to shell out the money. Members get access to events, video training resources, and an opportunity to display a badge on their website or in recruitment brochures. The list of benefits is here.

Slightly less than half a million came from state and federal government agencies. It’s well over $600k if you include local government and higher education.

This doesn’t include additional donations to the Pride in Diversity scheme.


For example, Australian Taxation Office make a habit of donating $11k per year to the Pride in Diversity Gala dinner. This payment guarantees them Silver Sponsorship status and goes toward canapes and Omni.

SBS is also a “media partner” which indicates that they provide free services in support of Pride in Diversity.

Mandatory Fund-Raising

Pride in Diversity members pay to belong to the program. The membership fee largely supports the Australian Workplace Equalities Index (AWEI) Scheme. But it costs nothing (except your time!) to participate in the AWEI.

Several line items require fund raising and pro-bono work to be supplied to the LGBTQ community.

  • Example: Within the assessed calendar year, we held stalls at LGBTQ community events or participated in pride parades under our employer/company branding. (This may include online community events with prominent employer branding.) Having individual employees wearing t-shirts or marching independently at Pride events will not qualify for points within this question. This must be an official branded participation exercise by your employer to qualify.

Branded stalls and floats often require a donation to the event and a financial commitment and paying employees to attend. Note that the ATO sponsors the AWEI award dinner for this line item. It is worth $11k.

  • Example: Throughout the assessed calendar year, we have provided pro-bono or financial support to LGBTQ charities/community groups. (This includes sponsorships of events, publications or pro-bono accommodation/venue support.
  • Example: Throughout the assessed calendar year, we have engaged in fundraising for LGBTQ charities / communities / groups. (This may include the support of any LGBTQ charity groups within workplace giving programs.)

ACON does not specify who should receive the benefits of this mandated charity.

There is also a mandated “retain external expertise” that also requires spend on “LGBTQ” businesses.

Example: We have access to external LGBTQ support/expertise that we have called upon throughout the assessed year (this may include but is not limited to PID). If you were a Pride in Diversity member within the assessed year, please just state that here.

There are also requirements for suppliers. For example the counselling service needs to have received “specific training” in LGBTQ matters. There are also requirements that staff undertake LGBTQ training. ACON can supply that training – but so can a handful of niche LGBTQ businesses.


The taxpayer is paying for the AWEI scheme in 4 novel ways

Way 1. ACON receives considerable taxpayer funds each year.

Way 2. Part of these grants are spent in operating membership based scheme for which our government and taxpayer-funded organisations pay again in subscriptions.

Way 3. The AWEI scheme diverts hundreds, if not thousands of taxpayer-funded work hours per year across the federal, state, local, “not for profit” and university sectors.

Way 4. Several line-items in the AWEI require the organisation to pay for charitable donations, to spend their time. Further line items require organisations to engage in commercial arrangements and spend additional funds in order to win AWEI points.