This is a big year for Dr Jonathon Welsh AM. Not only is he an ambassador for the 21st birthday of Chillout Festival but it’s also the 40th anniversary of his being a professional performer and musician. Additionally, he will marry his partner of 18 years in March and celebrate his 60th birthday in October.
“I help to build mental and physical wellbeing in people experiencing social disadvantage and homelessness,” he said.
“The programs are not solely focused on music and singing, but also musical theatre, creative writing and percussion.”
Mr Welsh has long been a supporter of the LGBTQI community. He was a musical director of first the Sydney and then the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian chorus for eight years.
He also founded social inclusion week, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in November.
This year is jam-packed for Mr Welsh, who will travel to the United Kingdom twice.
First for the Cruise Ship Choir’s Bravo Arts Festival and then with a group of Australian singers on the Street Requiem tour, in memory of people who were homeless and died on the streets.
Mr Welsh will also be involved in the Melbourne International Singers Festival and projects with Queensland Musical Festival.
Mr Welsh has lived as a part-time resident in Daylesford for nine years.
“Daylesford has always been a place of retreat for me where I can literally chill out, recuperate, recharge my batteries and withdraw from the spotlight of my public working life,” he said.
For him, he says equal marriage rights are a long time coming and are important from a legal perspective.
“When it was announced that the overwhelming majority of Australians voted for equal marriage rights, I was proud of the fact I live in a democratic country,” he said.
“The process, although painful, gave me confidence that our nation is able to tackle these issues, even though the debate was very fierce and unpleasant on both sides at times.”
“I never thought I would see marriage equality in Australia in my life time,” he said.
For Mr Welch, the process is now particularly poignant as he and his partner are bringing up his two great nephews, who are eight and ten years old.
“Over the past year my life has changed enormously. The importance of us having the ability to be able to marry gives us equal legal rights with heterosexual couples. This is a very important thing for us from a purely legal perspective,” he said.
Mr Welch says the focus should now be on the future.
“The community has endured an enormous amount in the fight for our equal rights. We need to put it behind us now to celebrate the achievement, not only for us, but for future generations who will not have to fight the battles we did.”
Mr Welsh said one of the reasons he became involved with the festival this year was due to the role Daylesford has played in supporting the gay community.
“I have quietly observed many of the parades but I have not been actively involved before,” he said. “The gay community has made a wonderful contribution to Daylesford and in return the community has given us a retreat where we can feel safe, supported and included.”