Policy & Research


We’re here to work with legislators, policymakers and service providers to help them understand and address the needs of sexuality and gender diverse people and people living with HIV.


ACON has a long heritage in HIV advocacy from the very beginning of the epidemic, and the organisation’s inception in 1985. We undertake activities that seek to respond to the current issues in HIV policy and advocacy, as well as future challenges and opportunities.

Our work focusses on a broad range of issues as they impact on both the prevention of HIV and other STIs, as well as care and support for people living with HIV, including:

  • Areas which will have the most impact on the fight to end HIV
  • Policy goals and targets in the NSW and National HIV Strategies
  • Addressing priority areas and the clear rationale for change from an individual, community, population health and health system perspective
  • Making PrEP available to gay men who want to access to this prevention method. This will be critical to ensure access to this game changing biomedical intervention
  • Securing access to a wider variety of HIV testing services, especially HIV self – testing and rapid HIV testing.
  • Ensuring that all LGBTI people in New South Wales have access to education, testing and treatment

To find out more please contact our Policy, Strategy and Research team: policy@acon.org.au


Policy Statements and Submissions:

Discussion Papers:

Discrimination and Human Rights

ACON has made a number of submissions relating to hate crimes. You can read more about those here.

NSW State Election

ACON, alongside a coalition of organisations dedicated to the health and human rights of our communities including BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, Equality Australia, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), Hepatitis NSW, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), Positive Life NSW, HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) and Twenty10 have produced a NSW State Election 2023 Candidates Questionnaire.

Click here to read the NSW Election 2023 Candidates Questionnaire.

The NSW Election 2023 Candidates Questionnaire outlines thirty-nine key commitments to improve the health, human rights and safety of people in our communities.

Read Alex Greenwich’s response to the Questionnaire here

Read the Greens NSW’s response to the Questionnaire here

Read NSW Labor’s response to the Questionnaire here

Read the Liberals’ response to the Questionnaire here

More responses will be made available here soon.

In addition, ACON and partners are hosting a Community Forum on Thursday, March 16, 5pm for a 5.30pm start, at the Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre in Surry Hills, and livestreamed online. This public forum is an opportunity for political parties and independent candidates from across the political spectrum to elaborate on their responses to the questionnaire, and their commitments to the health and human rights of our communities.

Register for the forum here.

If you have any questions or feedback for candidates, please get in touch by emailing policy@acon.org.au.

NSW Pre-Budget Submissions

ACON Reconciliation Action Plans

In late 2016 ACON’s Board and Senior Leadership Team recognised the need to work in a more coordinated, culturally respectful and inclusive way with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, service users and organisational partners. ACON initiated work with Reconciliation Australia to develop ACON’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which is a formal framework for organisations to ensure their work supports the national reconciliation movement. Our collaboration with Reconciliation Australia has continued, most recently resulting in the production of ACON’s second RAP in 2020.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain a priority population under successive state and national health strategies, recognising that this population continues to be disproportionately impacted by poorer health outcomes across a number of areas, including HIV and STIs,  Mental Health and Wellbeing, Smoking, Domestic and Family Violence and Social Inclusion.

With the implementation of ACON’s two RAP, our intention is to build on the partnership work ACON has already been doing. We aim to create a more strategic, collaborative and whole of organisation approach to our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our second ‘Innovate’ RAP was released internally in May 2020, with a community launch held online in June that featured singer-songwriter and story teller Aunty Dawn Daylight and poet Brooke Scobie, and was emceed by Will Trewlynn from BlaQ. You can watch the launch of our second RAP below.

The Innovate RAP 2020-22 strengthens the organisation’s commitment to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures, acknowledge our history, build closer relationships, and to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

You can access a public copy of our second RAP here.

If you have any feedback or would like to join the RAP Working Group, please fill out this short form or contact RAP@acon.org.au

Our first RAP was released in 2018, with community launches held in Sydney and across regional NSW during 2019.

You can access a public copy of our first RAP here.

ACON acknowledges and pays respects to the traditional custodians of all the lands on which we work. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Keep updated with our RAP e-news. Sign up here:

ACON’s Multicultural Engagement Plan

ACON has produced a Multicultural Engagement Plan which provides a three-year framework to guide the way ACON engages with and empowers community members and staff from culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse, migrant, and refugee backgrounds, and people of colour. You can read the Plan here.


We’re are here to promote and support HIV and LGBTQ health related research in NSW.

ACON Ethics Committee

ACON welcomes opportunities to collaborate with researchers, participate in research and promote projects that align with our organisation’s values, programs and priorities.

Research is fundamental to inform and improve health promotion and services for people of diverse genders and sexualities (LGBTQ+) and people living with HIV. We believe that research that meaningfully involves people with lived experience throughout the research project lifecycle, from development to implementation and feedback to community, is essential and generates greater insights into and for our communities.

Research projects must go through a robust ethics review process before they can be promoted by ACON.

ACON’s dedicated Research Ethics Review Committee (RERC) is made of independent researchers and health experts who provide ethical guidance to ACON and researchers with a view to ensuring that any project we promote benefits our communities and ACON. The RERC reviews the extent of community consultations and involvement, the appropriateness of language, indicators and survey questions, the potential benefits and risks to participants.


What projects require ACON ethics approval?

Research projects seeking ACON’s endorsement, or access to ACON’s support and resources, are required to attain approval from the ACON Research Ethics Review Committee (RERC). This includes:

  • Projects that seek survey promotion support from ACON (e.g., sharing a survey on ACON’s social media and mailing lists, promoting a research study through the distribution of flyers).
  • Projects that seek the participation of ACON staff in research.
  • Projects that specifically target sexuality and gender diverse populations (LGBTQ+), either as their sole sample group or as an identified sub-sample.
  • Projects that specifically target people living with HIV, those who provide care and support for people living with HIV, and priority populations for HIV prevention.

How does the ACON ethics approval process work?

There are three essential steps:

1. Contact research@acon.org.au for a short pre-assessment

Due to the high number of applications we receive, the ACON Research Ethics Review Committee’s Chair and Secretariat conduct a pre-assessment of your project and its alignment with ACON’s research priorities and programs. We will consider:

  • The project’s suitability and alignment with ACON’s research priorities and programs.
  • The age of participants (ACON generally does not promote research involving participants under the age of 18).
  • Whether the project is already being promoted and/or recruitment is underway.
  • The research experience and lived experience of the researchers (ACON generally does not promote honour’s degree research projects, unless the applicant has demonstrated that the project is of exceptional quality and benefit to our communities).
  • ACON’s capacity to promote the research.

You do not need to fill out an application form at this stage. Simply provide a brief description of your project and the kind of support you need, and we will get back to you to advise on next steps.

2. Fill out an application form

Before submitting your application, please consider reviewing the following key points:

  • Sexuality, gender and intersex indicators – please refer to ACON’s recommended Community Indicators for Research. The RERC generally does not approve studies that do not include appropriate indicators.
  • List of Support Services – Please ensure any listed support services are known to be LGBTQ inclusive and that it is clearly indicated whether the service is appointment-based or available 24 hours
  • The extent and appropriateness of consultation with affected populations.

Download: ACON Ethics Committee Application Form

3. Implement the ACON RERC’s recommendations, if applicable

Once your project is reviewed, you will be advised of the outcome in writing. The four possible outcomes are:

  • Approval: the proposal is approved as submitted.
  • Approval after amendments or clarifications: The proposal is approved subject to the provision of clarifications to the RERC.
  • Deferment: The proposal is not approved as submitted, but it can be reassessed if the applicant chooses to resubmit the application with changes asked by the RERC.
  • Declined: The proposal is not approved as submitted.

If you receive an outcome that requires implementing the RERC’s recommendations, we will advise you on the necessary steps to progress your application.

When should I submit an application form for ACON ethics review?

Make sure to contact research@acon.org.au before filling out the application form. Our team will conduct a pre-assessment to ensure your project aligns with our priorities and capacity.

For University-based research, please apply to ACON’s ethics review after receiving approval from University ethics (or other NHMRC-registered ethics body).  

Meeting Dates
Wednesday 1st February 2023 Wednesday 15th February 2023
Wednesday 1st March 2023 Wednesday 15th March 2023
Wednesday 5th April 2023 Wednesday 19th April 2023
Wednesday 3rd May 2023 Wednesday 17th May 2023
Wednesday 7th June 2023 Wednesday 21st June 2023
Wednesday 5th July 2023 Wednesday 19th July 2023
Wednesday 2nd August 2023 Wednesday 16th August 2023
Wednesday 6th September 2023 Wednesday 20th September 2023
Wednesday 4th October 2023 Wednesday 18th October 2023
Wednesday 1st November 2023 Wednesday 15th November 2023
Wednesday 29th November 2023 Wednesday 13th December 2023


Recommended Community Indicators for Research

Through extensive consultation with our communities and research experts, we have developed the following sexuality, gender and intersex related indicators. We recommend the use of these questions as a minimum in all research projects focused on LGBTIQ+ people.

ACON also endorses the use of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Standard on Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables for wider population (non-LGBTIQ+ specific) research. The ABS Standards are available here.

Research projects which seek ACON ethics approval and do not use the ACON Recommended Community Indicators or the ABS Standards are unlikely to receive approval unless they demonstrate a strong rationale for not doing so.

You can download a PDF of the above guide here.

ACON’s Research Priorities

Research is key to improving the health of people living with HIV and people of diverse genders and sexualities. It helps us better understand our communities’ needs, design effective programs and advocate for policy change to improve health outcomes.

We believe that people in our communities should be meaningfully included in research – from the choice of research topics to recruitment, analysis, and community feedback.

ACON’s Research Priorities guide ACON’s research activities, including the development of new partnerships. Our focus is on ensuring the projects we support have the greatest benefit for our communities and relevance to our programs. We welcome research that addresses knowledge gaps and emerging health issues as outlined by our Research Priorities, available here.

To find out more about ACON’s research priorities please contact research@acon.org.au.

SWASH – The Sydney Women and Sexual Health Survey


The Sydney Women and Sexual Health (SWASH) survey was first carried out in 1996. It was initiated by workers from two ACON projects, Women Partners of Gay and Bisexual Men and the Gay and Lesbian Injecting Drug Use Project, who were faced with a lack of empirical evidence on which to base their intervention work. Research on the health and wellbeing of lesbian, bisexual and queer women (cis and trans) is still scarce.

SWASH is now a comprehensive survey of sexual and gender identity; community connection; smoking, alcohol and drug use; sexual health; psychological wellbeing; experiences of anti-gay, sexual and domestic violence; parenthood intentions; preventive health behaviour including screening; healthcare access and satisfaction.

The survey is run every two years by a collaboration of ACON and researchers at the University of New South Wales (until 2009), and now the University of Sydney (since 2010). SWASH is the longest running and only regular survey of the health and wellbeing of LBQ women (cis and trans) in Australia. In 2010, the survey began running periodically in Perth: Women’s West Australian Sexual Health (WWASH).

For more information and research on the health of women (cis and trans) in Australia, visit The Australian Women’s Health Network’s Women’s Health Hub online library and ACON’s TransHub.

SWASH downloads:

The latest 2020 SWASH report was released on 28th October 2020 as part of a series of Mental Health month events. Register here for upcoming forums on Healthcare and Screening and Alcohol & Drug Use and Mental Health.

Previous SWASH reports:

Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey

The Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey (SGCPS) is a short survey that investigates the sexual practices, drug use, and health service engagement of gay and bisexual men. The findings are used to guide HIV and sexual health programs. It is conducted every year in February and March (corresponding with the Mardi Gras period). The SGCPS complements data from other studies and provides valuable information for HIV health promotion efforts. The SGCPS is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health.

ACON runs SGCPS in partnership with Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH), UNSW. Click here to view SGCPS reports on CSRH website.

To find out more please contact Angus Molyneux at amolyneux@acon.org.au.

ACON’s Health Outcome Statements

ACON has developed a series of Health Outcome Statements, which outline key data about the health of LGBTI people across a number of focus areas. These statements were developed between 2013 and 2018, and while much of the data remains relevant and significant, it should be noted that there any be new contributions to the evidence in these areas.

Mental Health and Wellbeing HoS

Alcohol and Other Drugs HoS

Smoking HoS

Domestic and Family Violence HoS

Community Safety and Inclusion HoS

Ageing HoS