Adj Prof Terry Slevin, PHAA CEO
A giant of public health, Peter Trebilco (1927 – 2017), now has a street in northwest Canberra named in his honour. It’s in the new suburb of Denman Prospect, which commemorates activism and reform.
Here’s the story behind that fitting tribute (coloured in yellow, above) to a man who helped establish the Public Health Association of Australia, and gave decades fighting for better health and human rights for LGBTIQIA+ people and the wider community.
Back in February 2023, the ACT Government approached PHAA National Office for our help.
It sought information about Major Peter McDonald Trebilco ED (Ret’d), and a recommendation for why he deserved a place name in the Territory.
We sent a letter to the ACT Place Names Advisory Committee of the ACT Office of the Surveyor-General and Land Information and outlined our reasons why:
“The Public Health Association of Australia enthusiastically supports the proposal that a place name in the ACT be dedicated in favour of Peter Trebilco.
Peter served Australia in many ways. He was a pioneer in establishing the Public Health Association of Australia, which has supported and helped advance disease prevention for more than 50 years. He helped guide its establishment and served it in many roles over many decades. He did so voluntarily and with distinction. He fostered public health leaders of the future and gave generously of his time and expertise. He has been made one of the very few Life Members the Association has anointed.
Peter also served in an academic role. He was involved in training Public Health professionals through his work at the University of New South Wales in a paid and then voluntary capacity for a span of more than 40 years.
Peter was an early and leading advocate for gay rights and in support of LGBTQI rights. Again, in a voluntary capacity he donated his time and expertise to the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service as well as displaying the courage to contribute to the planning and participating in protests and rallies at a time when such action brought with it serious personal risk. In addition, Peter was also involved in the Mental Health Association of NSW and in 2004 received an OAM for his work in these areas.
He was also a commissioned officer (Major) in the artillery (CMF Citizens Military Force, now Australian Army Reserve) who was brave enough to also protest Australian involvement in the Vietnam war.
Peter Trebilco was a thoughtful, gentle, clever, witty and selfless contributor to making Australia a better place, who pushed social boundaries, often to his own detriment. We could not be more enthusiastic to support and applaud any effort to recognise his contribution in this important and lasting manner.”
This month we received confirmation of the street name Trebilco Crescent.
It’s a wonderful, lasting, and fitting tribute to an outstanding contributor to the work of PHAA. Friends and colleagues of Peter in the Public Health family will I know be delighted to learn of this news.
Keen to read more? In this interview for Pride History, recalls the camp scene in the 1950s, the role of the police before decriminalisation, the moves to set up the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), and the evolution of CAMP into the Gays Counselling Service.