“The loss of Sister Paula, NZAF Life Member, will be keenly felt by all current and many past staff, board members and volunteers. She was a remarkably effective and strong advocate for both the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986 and the Human Rights Act in 1993.” said Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director, NZAF.
“Sister Paula was at the very forefront of the hardest struggles for dignity and equal rights for those living with HIV and dying of AIDS. She was a wise adviser, guide, mentor and confidant for NZAF Board and Executive Directors and a champion of those who were vulnerable to HIV and suffered the cruelty of discrimination and stigma. NZAF has been truly blessed to count her as family and her death marks the loss of a uniquely special woman to all New Zealanders.”
Sister Paula began her relationship with the NZAF in 1987 at a time when the full horror and poor understanding of AIDS was causing many to ostracise and denigrate those who were infected with HIV.
Over 19 years of committed service, Sister Paula held many significant roles. As well as acting as a caregiver and buddy for those living with HIV she acted as a Board member, committee member, public speaker, trainer, mediator, and educator (especially on human rights issues).
“It is important to note that every one of these roles was undertaken as a volunteer,” Le Mesurier says. “One particular example of her impact was her work at hospitals to ensure that patients living with HIV and AIDS were provided with proper cutlery rather than plastic cutlery. “
This was a battle with stigma and discrimination that she won, and in doing so helped with maintaining the dignity and self respect for those dying of AIDS.”
Sister Paula was awarded Life Membership of the NZAF in 2005, and continued to be supportive of its work through her involvement with other organisations such as the Human Rights Commission.