Featured artist: Shannon Crees

Paul Van Reyk

Featured artist: Shannon Crees
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Paul Van Reyk

Paul Van Reyk

Audio: Paul van Reyk explains his approach to activism.

 

Paul Van Reyk was born in Sri Lanka in 1952 as a member of the Burgher community, an English-speaking minority within Sri Lanka. Arriving in Australia when Paul was ten, the Van Reyks settled in Sydney’s north, firstly in Arcadia, and later Willoughby. After spending some time in Singleton, the family resettled in Liverpool in Sydney’s west, where Paul lived until he left home. After living in various places in Sydney’s inner west, Paul moved to Petersham in 1993, and he has remained there ever since.

Graduating with a degree in social work, Paul has worked in various positions in the human services sector. In 1991 he started a consultancy firm in this area. Through this, he has provided training and consultancy to a wide range of health, government and charitable organisations, including the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, UNICEF and the Fred Hollows Foundation.

A committed activist, Paul has donated his time and efforts to a variety of humanitarian causes. This has included work with gay organisations, which was a formative part of his experience embracing his own gay identity. A father to six children by five different mothers, his work has included efforts to increase opportunities for homosexual couples to raise families and move closer towards equality. Although not directly involved in raising the children he has fathered, he has maintained strong connections with them. Pauls’ life and his relationship with his children was the subject of a 2006 episode of Australian Story.

‘As kids growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s it wasn’t acceptable,’ Paul says of his sexuality. ‘But as more people came out, and the more we were willing to say we were there, there was a space created and there was less willingness from people to challenge us.’  Over the course of his life and involvement in activism, Paul feels that it is thousands of small, daily actions like this that have dramatically shifted community perception of the LGBTIQ community for the better.