New Alliances

Some 13,600 delegates from more than 200 countries gathered in Melbourne for the 20th International Aids 2014 Conference from July 20-24 to discuss the global HIV response. The event was considered a great success.

This prestigious conference is the premier gathering for those working in the HIV field, as well as policymakers, people living with HIV and others committed to ending the epidemic. Former US president Bill Clinton and other international figures joined delegates from the medical, research, government and advocacy sectors, as well as representatives from the communities most affected by HIV and Aids.

Hosted at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the venue offers meeting spaces with leading technology and provides creative food and wine concepts with experienced staff.

The two adjacent buildings next to the Yarra River in South Wharf, an inner-city suburb, includes a 5,541-seat plenary hall that can be divided into three separate theatres, 32 meeting rooms of various sizes and a grand banquet room. There is also a Hilton hotel and office, residential and retail space.

“Our chefs catered for almost 14,000 delegates, offering 11 different food and beverage outlets and 60 different menu options, serving 1,000 volunteers each day,” says Fran Kerlin, Tourism Melbourne manager for city activation and strategic partnerships. “The in-house technology team of 80 MCEC technicians facilitated the worldwide broadcast of more than 100 satellite events and uploaded 400 individual presentation sessions to the Aids 2014 website.”

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre chief executive, Peter King, said it was a team effort. “We all learnt how important it is for the city to come together for an event like this,” he says. “The conference has enabled us to build networks with international organisations and create new alliances.”

The city’s cultural programme, consisting of more than 160 events encompassing more than 200 local businesses, was the largest citywide participation in the history of the International Aids Conference, organisers say.

As part of the supplementary programme, exhibitions and shopping nights, sporting events, late nights at museums and libraries were offered to participants.

“More than 150 events were held, with some record crowds attending some of the more high profile activities,” Kerlin adds.

The city also offered a number of tours showing off both its cultural and natural attractions, including a standard City Orientation Tour and a walking tour. On the Aboriginal Melbourne walking tour, delegates visited Melbourne’s indigenous locations, including camping, ceremonial, corroboree (dance and theatre ceremony) and archaeological sites. They also observed aspects of traditional indigenous medicine and tools, as well as bush tucker (food). 

The Street Art Melbourne walking tour took in famous street art and graffiti in the lanes, where numerous stencils, paintings, paste ups, light boxes, installations, mosaics and heritage topographies are displayed.

An afternoon nature tour visited the famous grasslands Open Range Sanctuary to observe kangaroos and abundant birdlife, while the Australian Animals Tour included visits to the Blue Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley, Victoria’s leading winery region. 

The Great Ocean Tour along the impressive Great Southern coastline to Shipwreck Coast offered exceptional views of the unusual Twelve Apostles, huge stone monoliths rising from the seas. The tour concluded with a view of the unique Penguin Express, with little fairy penguins, bloated from a day’s catch of fish, comically waddling up the broad Summerland Beach to their nests.

A two-day post conference tour included a scenic coastal drive along the Great Ocean Road, with its impressive seashores, golden beaches, peaceful townships, giant cliffs and lush forests. An optional helicopter flight over the striking Shipwreck Coast was offered, and participants stayed overnight in a four-star hotel.

The combination of an attractive city, excellent conference venue and enthusiastic workers and volunteers contributed to this successful major event.

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