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“The shop gave me a platform to represent minorities; the LGBTI community, people with HIV Aids, sex workers and the transgender community. Funeral directors wouldn’t bury people with HIV. The Queensland AIDS office in Townsville was even bombed at the time!” With his publicity and evolution into activism, Edwards found himself running for State Parliament in 1992 and then for Federal in 1998. He also became a founder and eventual part-owner of Queensland Pride, the first Gay and Lesbian newspaper, along with having a regular segment on 4TTT with Saturday Night LGBTI. So, is Edward’s advocacy for marginalised groups the only customers reflected in Sweethearts patronage? “Interestingly, over 70 per cent of our customers are women or couples, who are seeking to improve how they connect with their partner.” “A huge part of what we do here is offer guidance and direction. We focus on helping people feel comfortable, not selling them a product.” What differences can customers expect of the refurbished store? Building Designer David Townsend explains, “It’s much more technologically advanced, with everything in LED and leaning toward a high-end retail layout like you’re walking into a jewellery shop.” Colin expands further, “One of the first corners in the shop is the Community Service Area with information about sexual health. A contingent of the medical community refers patients to Sweethearts for this reason.”

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“We help older couples reconnect, men with erectile dysfunction issues, people recovering from trauma or managing a physical disability. No question or need is silly or stupid here. We’ve heard it all before.” “The majority of staff are in our 50s and 60s; we find that life experience counts for the issues people seek assistance for.” The shop itself is a far cry from the gaudiness associated with the likes of Kings Cross. “We don’t have ‘secret rooms’ here! Our store is comfortable, clean and accessible. It always smells good, our staff are expertly trained, and we put a smile on your face.” When it comes to confidentiality, Edwards is direct, “Our reputation lies in our discretion.” As Colin looks to the future, how does he reconcile the role Townsville has played in his past? “Sweethearts has been an important part of Townsville maturing into a young adult, proving itself prepared to deal with it and have a go. At the end of the day, that’s what I’m so proud of about Townsville. The city finds a way to put its best foot forward, and come out liking itself and finding its place in the world.” As to his activism, Colin declares with a cross-my-heart quality, “I will continue to persist until we finally end up with a community where everyone is respected, valued, and lives with dignity.” www.sweethearts.sh @sweetheartstownsville sweethearts206

Profile for DUO Magazine

DUO Issue 157 January | February 2020  

The Magazine of the North DUO is an elegant, intelligent publication highlighting style, home, fashion, food, travel, culture and exclusive...

DUO Issue 157 January | February 2020  

The Magazine of the North DUO is an elegant, intelligent publication highlighting style, home, fashion, food, travel, culture and exclusive...