Skinning The Cat

There’s a curious old saying: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” It’s a peculiarly repellent phrase, if you pause to think about it. Does it mean “there are several different ways you could go about the business of removing the skin from cats” – the kind of thing a dubious furrier might want to know – or alternatively (if you have a nasty mind) – “how many different ways can you skin one particular cat?”

This rather macabre thought came to me as I was chatting about the proposed Pride Centre. I had a ticket to attend last nights Town Hall shindig, but decided not to. It seemed a trifle impertinent to rock up and voice, yet again, my doubts about the project, when I’m unlikely ever to use it.

Also, I was not prepared to venture out in that foul weather.

I’m unlikely to use it because I’ll soon be living interstate. Also, I suspect that by the time it’s finally built, I’m unlikely to be living, period.

In addition to the ill-judged ghetto location, the size and design of the place has now come into question. As currently planned, it won’t be anywhere near large enough to accommodate everyone who wants to be there.

I understand that they were unable to offer Joy enough space, even though the Board must surely be anxious to have them as a tenant. That would force at least some people to make the tedious and awkward trek to St Kilda.

Likewise Thorne Harbour Health (the entity formerly known as VAC, or “What TH*?” for short), will likely need rather more space than current plans offer.

Accommodating these two major tenants will require, at a guess, the addition of at least one more storey, maybe two, triggering additional design, planning and building costs, and a bureaucratic nightmare. Hopefully they can get the thing up before all the rainbow paint wears off the street outside.

Which brings me back to the unpleasant cat-skinning thoughts I began with. The cat in question being the LGBTI community.

Let’s look at how the arrival of the Centre may impact the finances of  one of our major LGBTI organisations.

Joy already hoovers up a significant amount of community cash every year and will need more to fund a relocation, with significant expenses to remove, equip and connect their new home. They will need to build another relocation fund, and we all know how fraught that was the last time. Or will the state government pay for the move, as they did with community station PBS? Will they still be in power?

The situation might be manageable if finances were vibrant, but the recent Radiothon was less successful than last years, sucking in around $265k, as against $300k.  Radio stations are expensive to run, especially when more of the work is now undertaken by paid staff or contractors, rather than volunteers. The station has in recent years generated revenue of almost $1m a year, most of which it spends.

Meanwhile sponsorship revenue has been declining. Grant income will disappear going forward, as they have abandoned the chase, finding grant acquittal burdensome, and the return small. So the community, through fundraisers, Radiothon and subscriptions, will be asked to carry more of the existing burden and probably stump up more on top to fund the move.

Opening new avenues for fundraising is good, but can create significant cat fights: some LGBTI organisations used to think of bequests as their exclusive province, and were not happy when Joy started to solicit them.

Joy is just one example, but in truth, many LGBTI organisations constantly teeter on the edge of oblivion, and, unlike Thorne Harbour, do not have a fat financial cushion to recline on, or a regular income from the government. The arrival of a new, and highly professional, competitor for funds must be giving them (along with many other LGBTI organisations) nightmares.

The Pride Centre is off to a good start. The state government tipped in original funding, and Port Philip the site, but remember, this monster is supposed to be community owned, run, and funded. That means it will be hoovering up lots of community dollars for a long time to come, leaving less for everyone else.

Other LGBTI organisations, unless they move quickly to install professional, high powered managers and boards, in place of the current seat warmers, may just find themselves trying to survive on cat food.

The Pride Centre board already has a wealth of management and professional experience, great contacts and tremendous fundraising ability.

There may not be much skin left on the cat by the time they are done with it.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)