Celebrating the career of Professor Gary Dowsett

Professor Gary Dowsett, PhD, FASSA, is retiring from his role as Deputy Director of ARCSHS, a post he has held for 22 years. However, he is not ceasing his research and scholarly work and will be appointed as an Emeritus Professor later this year.

Pictured is Professor Gary Dowsett and a display of HIV prevention materials from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Professor Gary Dowsett, PhD, FASSA, is retiring from his role as Deputy Director of ARCSHS, a post he has held for 22 years. However, he is not ceasing his research and scholarly work and will be appointed as an Emeritus Professor later this year.

Professor Dowsett has had an exceptional academic career. He has been a scholarly leader for four decades contributing significantly to social research in sociology, HIV/AIDS, Critical Sexuality Studies, LGBTIQ community issues, and men’s health.

Since the emergence of the HIV epidemic in the early 1980s, Professor Dowsett has been a leading Australian and international social researcher in this field. He has been active within the community-based response to HIV and was one of the founding members of ACON (formerly the AIDS Council of NSW) in 1985. From 1986, he coordinated the first of many social research projects on gay men and HIV in Australia. In 1989, he began work with WHO’s Global Programme on AIDS (WHO/GPA) in Geneva designing a seven-country study of young people and HIV. Emeritus Professor Peter Aggleton, the then Chief of the Social and Behavioural Research Unit in WHO/GPA, remembers Professor Dowsett’s arrival: ‘It was like a breath of fresh air. Gary brought to the programme a sense of pure vitality grounded in the realities of what was then the most appalling of epidemics, with no end in sight ’.

Over the next 25 years, Professor Dowsett collaborated with a number of researchers, UN agencies and international NGOs in South and Southeast Asia, South Africa, the Pacific, the UK, Canada and the USA. He has been a regular contributor to international HIV and AIDS conferences and journals. Currently, he is co-investigator on a number of major studies, including a NHMRC-funded study of gay and bisexual men’s use of crystal methamphetamine in relation to sexual activity and Hepatitis C risk, and an ARC Linkage project investigating LGBTIQ+ communities experiences of various cancers.

Professor Dowsett was an early leader in the theoretical field of Critical Sexuality Studies, co-founding the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society. His contribution to this organisation has involved the development and implementation of international training courses in advanced critical sexuality studies funded by the Ford Foundation, conference organising, and Board and subcommittee memberships.  He has served on the editorial boards of journals such as Sexualities, Culture, Health & Sexuality, and Sexual Health, and was elected a Member of the International Academy of Sex Research in 2003 and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2008. The quality of Professor Dowsett’s scholarship is internationally recognised and he will continue to contribute to these fields as an Emeritus Professor, soon presenting a keynote address at this year’s 24th World Association for Sexual Health Congress in Mexico City.

Recently, Professor Dowsett’s expertise in the field of sexuality studies has helped to foster a new stream of work at ARCSHS exploring sexuality, technology and the law. Dr Jen Power, who has been working with Professor Dowsett on a recently funded ARC Discovery Project on this topic said: ‘People would come knocking at our door wanting to work with Gary due to his incredible reputation in this field. He has been a wonderful mentor for generations of researchers at ARCSHS. Personally, I regularly seek out Gary’s insight and opinions on research and theory. I have genuinely appreciated the opportunity to work with him and am grateful that he will continue to have a presence at ARCSHS in his capacity as Emeritus Professor.’

Professor Dowsett has been an active member of the LGBTIQ+ community since the early days of gay and lesbian liberation movement in the 1970s. In 2018, Professor Dowsett was awarded a life membership of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras recognising his contributions to the LGBTIQ community . Adjunct Associate Professor at ARCSHS, Michael Hurley, reflects: ‘Gary was a key player in the interface between research and the gay community and the application of the research in health promotion. His work is recognised internationally and nationally as central in the historical response to HIV in the 80s and discussion of post-AIDS in the 90s.’

Another initiative, led by Professor Dowsett, was Australia’s first study on the experiences of gay and bisexual men recovering from prostate cancer treatment. This grew from his long-held interest in researching masculinity and men’s health. Professor Dowsett will continue to his involvement in this and many more research projects at ARCSHS as an Emeritus Professor, mentoring the next generation of ARCSHS researchers for years to come.


The original Sydney Gay Liberation Quire, a gay liberation activist performance group in the early 1980s. Gary is playing recorder in the back row.

The original Sydney Gay Liberation Quire, a gay liberation activist performance group in the early 1980s. Gary is playing recorder in the back row

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