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It really began over 20 years agoDrew Browne Founder unUsual Risks Insured Australia
In 1991 I sat in the waiting room of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney after discovering that I couldn’t work 60 hours a week and keep my health as well. I’d just received the news that I needed to be admitted for urgent surgery the next day, to have a growth removed from my throat.
As I sat there, surrounded by vintage editions of the National Geographic Magazine, and people in varying states of ill health and unhappiness...
...a simple black and white postcard caught my eye of a photo of Mother Teresa who became known for her work with the extreme poor in the slums of India’s Calcutta. The caption read, ‘You don’t have to be a saint to do something good’
It was a brochure asking for people who’d be prepared to volunteer their time, learn therapeutic massage and then provide hands-on massage services to people with HIV in palliative care situations at a hospital clinic.
I folded a copy of the postcard into my back pocket to read another time. Weeks later, after my surgery and a great deal of personal loss, I remembered that simple black and white postcard from the waiting room, and so began my journey of doing something good.
After months of practical massage training, health and discrimination awareness education, I began regular weekly volunteering at a hospital with a newly opened HIV/AIDS ward. A year later, after so many deaths, many lessons and a new-found level of respect for the resilience of people labouring under stigma suffering terrible discrimination, I was asked to spend some time at a newly-opened Day Centre for positive people in the western suburbs of Sydney.
Our friend Mrs Patricia Kennedy, OAM
It was at this centre that I met and began my friendship with an HIV Disability Advocate, Mrs. Patricia Kennedy, and her wonderful team of volunteers. Patricia was later to be officially recognised and awarded the Australian government's OAM honour in 2003 for her services to people living with disabilities and HIV. In 2013, she inspired us to create unUsual Risks Insured Australia.
The early days of HIV and AIDS
In the 1990s, the world was just waking up to the reality of HIV and AIDS. It was the social leprosy of its time. Because of people’s discrimination, intolerance and unfair judgments, anonymity, and confidentiality were paramount — so no one knew what I did, who I supported and who I was honoured to care for.
Things began to change
Five turbulent years passed. I've watched amazing breakthroughs in medical treatments. People diagnosed with HIV, when treated early, began to live long and fulfilling lives again. The HIV hospice moved a number of times and later found a more permanent location in Sydney's western suburbs.
Since then, ACON has been well established. The broader community understanding has begun to mature slowly as people realise that the most important issue is the person, not the diagnosis.
For over 20 years now I have worked in the financial services industry in the specialist area of life insurance. I’ve continued to see some businesses move (at glacial speed) towards greater tolerance and understanding, and then to acceptance and celebration of diversity in our greater community.
But there’s still active and passive discrimination in business towards people living with HIV
I've witnessed firsthand the passive discrimination in business towards people who accept and celebrate diversity in others.
- FM Radio stations who no longer wished to be associated with a brand that celebrates diversity
- Companies who made decisions based upon fear and discrimination over facts
- The stigma and fear-based discrimination that so many LGBTI ( Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) people have to deal with daily when discussing their financial position, personal insurance plans and their desire to protect and provide for their families.
Tomorrow, history will judge us all on our businesses and our demonstrated commitment towards acceptance, respect and inclusion of all people. But today the consumer will judge us, and rightly so.
At Unusual Risks Insured Australia, we want to be found on the right side of history
There must always be a respectful room for diversity and the safeguarding of human rights. Honest differences in opinions are never a threat, but bigoted intolerance and selective discrimination have no place in civil society or its businesses.
We believe this is a human rights issue
My interest in human rights started at a young age as I read confronting books about Sociology and Ethics, later the work of Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia and author Jack Donnelly’s Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice.
In 2009 I became a brand ambassador for a microfinance charity working with the extremely poor in the developing work, without regard to gender, sexuality, race, religion or status.
- Unusual Risks Insured Australia opened it's specialty doors for business 1st December 2013
- In September 2014 we were proud finalists in the Honour Awards and won the Outstanding Financial Product Award for KPI Sydney
- In May 2016 our parent company Sapience Financial & Investment Certified as a B Corporation, the international standard for using business as a force for good
We believe this is a Global Goals issue
The 17 UN Global Goals designed to provide a roadmap for governments and businesses to focus their efforts to make the work a better place by 2030. Global Goal #10 Reduce Inequalities, focuses on reducing the discrimination and inequality that often leads to financial and social discrimination.
- Our doors are open for business and we welcome all like-minded people who need high-quality personal insurance and financial and investment services. We don't discriminate.
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