We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of this Land. We would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians present.
Close to the Yarra River in the tranquil surrounds of Fairfield Hospital, a small garden, is being crafted from the landscape for people whose lives are being touched by the disease.
To be filled with native shrubs and trees and circumscribed by Victorian-style seats and barbecue facilities, the garden is for the use, although not exclusively, of AIDS patients and their families.
From now on they will be able to take a break from the AIDS ward and retreat to a place where they can just sit and talk for a while. If words don't come easily, then they can reflect on the past and perhaps, if they are prepared to, look to the future.
It's a warming concept. But like everything else about this disease, which seems to have multiple effects on people, the garden serves another purpose.
It illustrates the unique relationship which has developed between Fairfield Hospital and the Victorian AIDS Council. A relationship which has bonded patient and health care provider. A relationship which is as touching as it is tragic.
According to the convenor of the garden project, Mr Dale Withers, the garden idea grew from one of the care teams assigned to look after an AIDS patient in early 1985. At the same time, the VAC's management committee had a smiliar notion.
Initially it was proposed to set up the garden on river frontage land owned by Collingwood Council. However, it was eventually decided that Fairfield was more appropriate. Modified a little, but not a lot, the idea gradually took shape. The rubberstamp came in the form of Fairfield's enthusiasm.
Although it is a small parcel of land on the edge of the hospital grounds, the garden is likely to take on much greater significance. To be designed and tended by volunteers with VAC's support group, it provides a muchneeded respite from the daily drama and sadness in the AIDS ward at Fairfield.
As well as a garden, a rotunda will be built on the land, the money for which has been donated anonymously.
Mr Withers is quick to point out that it is not a memorial garden. It's for the living; although there are bound to be memories of the dead.
"People who have come down here have talked about the tranquility," he said. "If you are going through heavy stuff up there (in the ward) you need to be on your own sometimes. It's for the use of people with AIDS (PWAs) and their visitors. In fact, it's for the use of all patients if they want it. There's nothing exclusive about it."
All the garden supplies, including the plants, are being donated by various support groups. The native look not
only fits in with the Yarra - Forest plan but it makes the garden low-maintenance. While Fairfield is helping with gardening advice, and providing the seats, the ultimate responsiblity rests with the support workers.
A PWA called Ian, who has been in Fairfield with category A (or full-blown AIDS), said the garden was like a "getaway".
"It's just a nice place to go and relax. It's like getting away from the hospital; leaving it behind for a while. You are far enough away for privacy. And even if there is a group of you it's like an outing.
Photo caption: The convenor of the AIDS garden project, Mr Dale Withers, contemplates the peace in the garden by the river.
PICTURE: NATHAN RICHTER
The Support Group: a volunteer-run segment of the AIDS Council to support and care for people with AIDS which was instigated in January 1985.
I joined Support at this time. Training sessions for carers began Jan/Feb to April 1985. Volunteer carers then set up four metropolitan area-groups (i.e. North Support, East Group etc). Overall co-ordination was via the Support Group Committee that met fortnightly at VAC.
A ‘Memorial Garden’ on bank of Yarra, Collingwood area. This idea was floated (and possibly put to Collingwood Town Council) by Maureen O'Brien, late 1985 – early 1986. Maureen was a staff member of VAC and also a councilor for Collingwood at the time. I recall Phil Carswell, gay activist and founding member of the VAC, referring to this idea informally at a general meeting for support members at this time.
A garden at Fairfield Hospital – a proposal from within the Support Group. This idea emerged at the same time.
I attended Support Group Committee meetings as an observer towards the end of 1986, and later regularly as an Area Coordinator for the North Group in 1987 and 1988. In raising the suggestion of the garden (late 1986) I was asked by the Committee to approach Fairfield Hospital regarding the viability of such a project. I did this, the response from the Director was positive, and a site was determined early in 1987. The Director made it clear that the project should not be of a ‘memorial’ nature (i.e. ashes could not be buried there). It was agreed that it’s purpose should essentially be ‘social’ (i.e. a place where visitors from the wards might take patients). Two other Support Groups volunteers (Trevor ??? from North Support and Glen Hargraves, East Support – both experienced gardeners) volunteered to help with the coordination of the project. Trevor suggested the idea of a gazebo during one of our planning visits to the site in early 1987. Unfortunately, several months later, due to illness and for personal reasons, neither was able to continue with their support.
While volunteers undertook construction of the garden, finance was necessary for items such as top-soil, plants, a drainage system around the gazebo, watering equipment etc. Funding for such items was met chiefly by fund-raising activities by volunteers in the Support Group.
In addition contributions came from:
A botanist, Randall Robinson, who assisted at a number of working bees, advised me of a plan (‘The Middle Yarra Concept’) for the restoration of the adjacent Yarra area. Randall advised of a possible future ‘inclusion’ of part of the Fairfield Hospital grounds in this plan. For this reason, and to minimise future maintenance responsibilities it was decided that plantings be largely indigenous, rather than exotics. Indigenous plants were provided for planting on the Opening Day. The bulk of these had been purchased from CERES Nursery in Northcote.
Working Bees by Support Group Volunteers began in July 1987.
These were held fortnightly, usually Sunday afternoons, and were based on a rotating system - each area group taking turns. A builder, Greg Davis, was engaged to construct the gazebo. This was done in early 1988.
July 1988. Please see ‘Melbourne Star Observer’ of that time for full range of coverage of this event. This can be accessed at the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. Contact person: Graham Carbery --------- – a silent number. I have written to let him know that you may be in touch.
July 1989 – A major function again held at the site. Tree plantings were made in the area east of the garden.
I continued to oversee regular maintenance of ‘Fairfield Meeting Place’ until approximately 1991 – 92. Though my active involvement with North Support Group had ceased sometime before. Many people were involved in the project in many different ways. A chief tribute might be made to Keith Harbour (Convener of the Support Group 1986, and President of VAC 1987 – 1989). Keith vigorously championed the project from the outset. Likewise to John Hughes (East, and later North Group) for his commitment to seeing through much of the hard work during construction and to follow up maintenance work at the site.Dale Withers
These were the first photos we took in the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden in 1995, and the benches shown each had a plaque on them:
From the Offices of the Ministers for Planning and Local Government and Conservation and Land ManagementMonday, October 20,1997
Victorias Planning and Local Government Minister, Mr Robert Maclellan, has approved a development plan that will enable construction to commence on the new Victorian Institute for Forensic Psychiatry.
At the same time, the former Fairlea Prison site will be returned to parkland by the Minister for Conservation and Land Management, Mrs Marie Tehan.
This move will add more than two hectares to Yarra Bend Park, enhancing the area for the communitys enjoyment, Mrs Tehan said.
Landscaping works will commence immediately, with the Department of Human Services responsible for establishment and maintenance of the landscape buffers for the first three vears. Parks Victoria will then assume lona-term responsibility for maintenance.
The Forensic Psychiatry Institute will be built on part of the former Fairfield Hospital site, off Yarra Bend Road, Fairfield. The development plan, required by Mr Maclellan and prepared by the Department of Human Services, details the proposed development and addresses planning and environmental issues.
Landscaping improvements outlined in the plan include:¦ new planting around the AIDS Memorial garden and long-term management and maintenance of the site;
Mr Maclellan praised the plan and said that it would achieve the optimum outcome for both the Institute and the surrounding parkland.
The plan approval process has involved close consultation with all major stakeholders including the Cities of Yarra and Boroondara, Yarra Bend Park Trust, Parks Victoria and the Yarra Bend Protection Group, Mr Maclellan said.
As requested by Mr Maclellan, the Department of Human Services has embarked on a community education and awareness program to provide a process for ongoing community feedback and discussion. As part of this, a community consultation group with representatives from local government and interest groups has also been established.
A much-needed 135 bed psychiatric facility for Victoria can now commence construction. At the same time, we will be improving and increasing our city parkland and greatly enhancing the landscape of the area, Mr Maclellan saidMedia inquiries:
Conservation, Forests and Lands (Miscellaneous Amenments) Bill
Consumer Credit (Finance Brokers) Bill
Health Services (Further Amendment) Bill
Land (Further Revocation of Reservations) Bill
Legal Practice (Amendment) Bill
Mutual Recognition (Victoria) Bill
Planning and Environment (Amendment) Bill
Victorian College of the Arts (Amendment) Bill
Victorian Institute of Marine Sciences (Repeal) Bill
After coming to live in Melbourne, we went to see the AIDS Garden, and at that stage, although it was not freely accessible, we managed to see the Garden and walk around and take photos.
We reacted to the above articles by sending letters to the organisations directly involved with the refurbishing and occupation as an educational campus of the old Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital - Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) and the union, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), with copies to other organisations involved, or interested, in the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden.
The email above was sent on 29 April 2002. There has not been any response by any of the people to whom the email was addressed.
We are concerned at the fact that this vital issue has been ignored and want to know whether you intend doing anything about the AIDS Garden in the grounds of the old Fairfield Hospital.
We are determined to ensure that all AIDS Memorial Gardens in Australia are maintained in the same way as other remembrance areas are maintained.
Please respond as soon as possible, so that we may take the next steps to ensure that those involved with the mourning process at the Fairfield AIDS Gardens are not treated with the disrespect and off-handedness that has so far characterised the issue.
Mannie De Saxe and Kendall Lovett
SPAIDS PO Box 1675 Preston South Vic 3072 phone (03)9471 4878
We had a particular interest in AIDS Memorial Gardens and Groves, having started and established the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Grove Tree Planting Project in 1994 to commemorate all those people who had died of AIDS, and whose numbers were still growing at an alarming rate.
This is a photo of the only surviving plaque on any of the benches in the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden - photo by Ken Lovett:
Re: FAIRFIELD AIDS MEMORIAL GARDEN
Further to your letter of 8 July 2002, I would make the following points:
1) In response to your first paragraph in which you stated “an institute offer to maintain the garden was not accepted by the VAC,” I was informed by VAC on 15 August 2002 that when NMIT won the tender for the site, part of the contract was to care for the AIDS Garden.
VAC further advised me that it would not have been possible for them to maintain the Garden (as stated in you first paragraph) as VAC didn't have control over the site and couldn't have accepted the offer anyway.
2) A metal plate on one of the benches - the only one surviving, it seems - reads:
DONATED BY RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF MICHAEL JOHN IRELAND 11-11-1987
The plaque on the rock at entry to the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden reads as follows:THIS GARDEN AREA
You would be aware that over time, usage of sites changes.
For instance, in 1988, when the Garden was established, it was no doubt not envisaged at that stage that it would be used later as a Memorial Garden, with the ashes of many of those who had died from AIDS who had been patients at Fairfield Hospital scattered in the Garden.
By the same token you would be aware that in 1988 there was no likelihood that Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, with an international reputation, would be closed in 1995/1996.
It would not have been envisaged by NMIT in 1988 that some years later it would be establishing a campus on the site of the closed Fairfield Hospital.
I am not sure why you have placed the word “intent” in inverted commas in your paragraph about the AIDS garden because the intent “was to provide an outdoor setting where relatives and friends could visit HIV/AIDS patients in quiet and peaceful surroundings.” However, even you would be aware that what might have been an original intent can patently change with time, as stated above. The Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital was intended to be just that over the years, and the intent was NOT for it to be changed into a campus for NMIT.
3) In a submission by Bradley Engelmann and others to the then Victorian Health Minister Marie Tehan in 1995 the request was made for access to garden space, “AIDS Memorial Garden to be re-established”
4) A large noticeboard was erected above the AIDS Memorial Garden during the second half of 1997.
The heading on the top of the noticeboard is as follows:
VICTORIAN INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC MENTAL HEALTH
Various items on the poster state:
Photo taken with Memorial Garden;
Proposed pathway in Memorial Garden by others;
Planning Permit Granted in August 1997;
Stage 1 landscaping is anticipated to commence in Oct.1997 and to be completed by December 1997;
Stage 2 will take place between October and November 1998;
Existing Memorial Plaque to be retained;
All recent planting and existing trees to be retained in Memorial Garden;
Basalt rocks salvaged from VIFP site excavations to be placed on batter to protect existing trees within the Memorial Garden;
Chapel to Memorial Garden concrete path temporary Lilydale toppings path to follow same alignment;
The landscape plan has been developed with the support of the organisations and groups listed below, who have worked closely to develop a unique environmental asset:The Department of Human Services
The Department of Infrastructure
Yarra Bend Park Trust
Yarra Bend Protection Group
Victorian AIDS Council
City of Yarra
City of Boroondara
5) A news release dated Monday 20 October 1997 (during the 2nd Kennett Ministry) from the offices of the Ministers for Planning and Local Government headed DEVELOPMENT PLAN DECISION IMPROVES PARKLAND FOR FAIRFIELD stated, amongst other items for the Fairfield site:
Landscaping improvements outlined in the plan include:
new planting around the AIDS Memorial garden and long-term management and maintenance of the site.
6) A document of the previous Victorian state government titled “Alert Digest No. 6 of 1998” dated 6 October 1998 contained the following paragraphs:
“Following the revocation of the current reservation affecting the land, the remainder of the site, which includes parkland areas and the Aids Memorial Garden, will be permanently reserved as a public park and memorial gardens. The Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE has agreed to manage the site. Officers of the Victorian Aids Council have indicated that this is likely to be acceptable to the Council.
The reservation of the Aids Garden area will ensure that the site remains a permanent memorial for those who have died from the Aids(sic) virus. It will continue to be a retreat for family and friends whose loved ones ashes are spread over the site and for people living with HIV and Aids(sic).”
7) Melway Greater Melbourne street directory shows a little green patch labelled AIDS Memorial Garden, for the years 1998,1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 on page 2D at H2 in an area on a white square marked Former Fairfield Hospital.
There is thus a recognition by the wider community that the area in the grounds of the old Fairfield Hospital is, indeed, the FAIRFIELD AIDS MEMORIAL GARDEN.
8) We have been informed that people have tried to access the Garden from time to time, were intimidated by the security people at the entrance to the campus, and didn't proceed any further. Of course there would be no records of such attempts, so the number of 8 visitors is only the number who refused to be intimidated. You state that over the period since 1996 when the visitor's book has been maintained by NMIT there have been only 8 recorded visits as mentioned, but I should place on your record that I have visited the Garden on visits from Sydney to Melbourne between 1995 and 2000, and entered the area without having had to sign a visitor's book.
9) As the ashes of people who had died from HIV/AIDS were scattered in the Garden, the Garden became an AIDS Memorial Garden. It has the same significance to the AIDS communities in Melbourne as have other cemeteries and shrines in memory of people and events in other parts of Australia.
Finally, your letter shows rudeness not recently experienced by me when dealing with organisations such as yours. When I was at school in the 1930s and 1940s I was taught that in letter-writing, when a letter has been addressed to a particular person by name, it was generally expected that the correct response was to address that person by name as well.
You chose to address your letter to Sir/Madam when you had my name at the top of your letter sent to me on 8 July 2002.
It may be homophobia and/or AIDSphobia that has driven your response, but in any event it was not only offensive, but also disturbing that someone in your position of management could behave in such a petty fashion.
E.J.(Mannie)De Saxe B.Sc. Eng (Mech) (Wits 1951) M.H.Sc (HIV Studies) (UWS Nepean 1996)
(From: Mannie De Saxe PO Box 1675 Preston South Vic 3072 email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au
In 2002 this is what the big noticeboard looked like at the top of the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden:
Photos were later taken of each item on this board, and those are as shown below under 2003:
These two photos show what is on either side of the picture on the above poster.
These two photos show items to be used to upgrade the park and the organisations to be involved in the landscaping.
The above 4 photos show the barbecue area and views around the Garden (Photos by Ken Lovett 2003)
A visit some months after the last one to see if there had been any clean-up and there hadn't been much change. (Photos by Ken Lovett 2004)
This article is an extract from an undated document called "Fairfield Heritage Walk", and the information was sourced from various organisations including the Victorian Heritage Trust. As far as can be ascertained, the document was released in 2008.
Queen's Memorial Infectious Diseases Hospital was officially opened in 1904 (after completion of the wards unfurnished in 1901) as the first and only purpose-designed and built infectious diseases hospital in Australia, funded by money raised to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897. The hospital had 22 acres of grounds, and wards for scarlet fever and diphtheria. It was a 'locked' hospital and had two separate entrances, for infectious and non-infectious traffic. The committee of management was made up of representatives of adjoining municipalities such as Melbourne, Fitzroy, Richmond and St Kilda.
Key buildings within the complex from its various development stages include the two 1901 ward blocks with their picturesque roof turrets (Clegg Kell & Miller) and narrow plan forms to maximise cross- ventilation, the multi-level nurses homes overlooking the Yarra on the east side (A&K Henderson 1917, 1924, 1932), the administration block (A&K Henderson, 1917) and the circular plan of the ambulance garage 1940 and the zig-zag form of the FG Scholes block of 1947, both designed under Percy Everett, Chief Architect of the Public Works Department. Some of the ornamental planting developed under Guilfoyle and Linacre includes fine mature specimens of Cedrus deodara, Eucalyptus cladocalyx and rare trees such as Ficus palmata. More typical planting included cypress hedges and palms.
In the 1930s, at its peak, the hospital had 720 beds, spread across 56 wards. By the early 1990s the number of beds had dropped to 100. In 1948 the name of the hospital was changed to Fairfield Hospital.
Heritage Victoria has identified the site as being „historically and socially significant as an institution responsive to the needs of patients during epidemics of infectious diseases for almost 100 years as it developed from isolation hospital to internationally recognised research and treatment centre. Its innovative responses to the challenge of caring for HIV/AIDS patients and their families from 1983 to1996 included the establishment of the AIDS garden in 1988.
The hospital was closed in 1996, and the northern section of the site is now occupied by NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of Technology), and the southern section is occupied by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Psychiatry (Thomas Embling Hospital).
To the east of Thomas Embling Hospital is a Public Park and Memorial Garden which contains the AIDS Garden.
This site is registered on the Victorian Heritage Register.
(Items in bold and italics are editorial changes)
This letter appeared in MCV and our response is underneath:
Recently my partner and I went to visit Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE in Fairfield, at the site of the former Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital.I was aware of the memorial garden on the site for people who had lost their life to AIDS, and I wanted to go and pay respect to the people I knew personally who had died at Fairfield; and gain a sense that this space had been cared for and maintained.
I was saddened to find a badly tended garden that appeared to have no one really interested in it. Many of the memorial plaques etc I thought would be there I could not find, and the space looked sadly neglected.
I understand the importance of land being sacred for our Indigenous people; in the same respect I feel this area of land is sacred for the gay community. Those of us who lived through that time know only too well the sense of loss and despair and uncertainty at what the future would hold. This space reminds us of that time, and we should never forget it and those we loved.
I am at a loss of knowing what to do about the garden. How can this be dealt with so that the right process is followed in order to complete the task of cleaning up the site? Who is responsible for this, or is no one responsible?
I am most interested to know.Robert, Thornbury
Having spoken with the Victorian AIDS Council, the Alfred Hospital and Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE since receiving your letter, we’ve yet to receive a definite answer for you, Robert. However, as soon as we know for sure, we’ll be sure to inform you and all our readers – Ed.
Our letter in MCV in response to the above letter about Fairfield:
My partner Ken Lovett and I are in our 80s, live in Preston, and don’t have a car. We have been living here for seven years, having moved from Sydney and Newcastle in 2001.
In Sydney we established and still run the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Groves - SPAIDS - started in 1994 and due to have its 34th planting on July 27, 2008.
Because of our interest in AIDS memorials and AIDS groves, we have had a special interest in the AIDS Memorial Garden at Fairfield; and before we came to live here, and since living here, we have done our best to ensure that something is done about maintaining the garden.
However, as your correspondent Robert of Thornbury has pointed out, the situation at Fairfield is one of shameful neglect; and the gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV communities should shoulder some of the blame for the situation as it exists now. Our web site - home.zipworld.com.au/~josken/fairfiel.htm - indicates what we have tried to do over the years, but we can’t do it on our own.
Maybe looking at a bit of past history and generating some publicity about the place in your paper could stimulate some activity on the part of NMIT and others to do something about the situation. It is all the more shameful because NMIT have a horticultural faculty on site at the Fairfield campus.
Hope you can manage to do something about this.Mannie De Saxe
A journalist from the Northcote Leader contacted us today to discuss the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden. She had paid a visit there recently and was horrified at the condition in which she found the Garden.
The journalist told us that she had last visited the Garden about 5 years ago, that she had friends whose ashes had been scattered there and she had understood that the Garden was supposedly being looked after by the new occupiers of the old Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, the North Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT).
In researching an article she intended to write for the Northcote Leader, the journalist had come across our web page on the Garden and she contacted us to find out what our involvement was, and whether it was ongoing.
At the same time as she contacted us, she also contacted NMIT to inform them that she was writing the article and intended to go to the site with a photographer. Whoever she spoke to at NMIT told her she was not allowed to take photos there, and the journalist told the NMIT person that that would make another story.
Her phone call to NMIT obviously set some alarm bells ringing because a short time later she was contacted by someone else from NMIT who wanted to meet her there when she visited the site. The journalist informed her that we were also going to be there when she went to the Garden, and the person from NMIT phoned us straight away to discuss the issue with us.
This was a very interesting development after years of silence on the part of NMIT who were supposed to look after the AIDS Garden and maintain it in reasonable condition. The condition of the garden is even more bizarre when it is known that the NMIT Horticultural faculty is located just above the Garden.
The journalist met us at the Garden with the photographer, and the person from NMIT was there to greet us but didn’t stay. She told us that she would like to get together with interested parties to discuss the maintenance of the Garden, and to that end we intend to have a meeting some time in June.
The journalist, Julia Irwin, contacted us before the article went to the printers to check the story with us with a request that we keep her informed about what happens next. This we certainly intend to do!
This photo was taken at Fairifeld House at the back of the Alfred Hospital on World AIDS Day 1 December 2001 and shows the garden and fountain which are part of the AIDS Garden mentioned in the above interview.
Andrew Shaw, the editor of MCV, wrote this editorial to remind people that Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden needs attention, and to ensure that those who are interested in maintaining this Garden remember why it was established in 1988.
Now that the Northcote Leader has raised concerns over the state of the AIDS Memorial Garden maybe it’s time our own community put out a “please explain” to the guardians of that place; or at least showed an ongoing interest in monitoring its condition. Established in 1988, the AIDS Memorial Garden is on the site of the former Fairfield Hospital, which was the major centre for HIV/AIDS patients until the late 90s. Unlike the tiny memorial garden at the Alfred Hospital, the one at Fairfield is a large, bushland area set in the bend of the Yarra, with a pagoda, a winding walkway and wooden benches with memorial plaques inscribed with the names of the departed. It was on these seats that many spent their last days of contemplation in an era before anti-retrovirals and combination therapies meant hope for the future. The ashes of some 50 people lie in the Garden’s soil.
I reported on the Garden for MCV in 2002. They were still pulling down the old hospital and workmen had found vials of things like e coli bacteria lying around. The site, including the Garden, was declared off limits, causing grief to visitors. We were allowed in, accompanied by a security guard. There was me, a photographer and representatives from PLWHA and Positive Women.
There seemed to be some confusion over who was responsible for the Garden’s up-keep at the time. Most thought NMIT Preston, which was taking over the site, was to provide maintenance. Eleven days before our visit, a concerned community member received a brusque letter in reply from NMIT Preston CEO Brian McDonald, pointing out that the Garden was seldom visited and that NMIT had no interest in its future use. McDonald said the Garden was never intended as a memorial; although the plaques and the ashes lying in the ground belied that belief.
Sensing political poison, then Minister for Health John Thwaites stepped in to arrange temporary maintenance for the Garden, and a promise from NMIT that when it took over the site it would be responsible for maintenance.
Today, thanks to the Northcote Leader’s article about the Garden’s disrepair, which was prompted by activist Mannie De Saxe from Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, NMIT is facing up to its responsibilities. It’s refurbishing the benches, replacing broken slats, having first removed the name plaques for safe-keeping. NMIT even promises to replace those plaques that are damaged, and says the mowing and maintenance of the Garden is now part of its groundskeeper’s schedule.
Let’s hope this positive attitude continues. The Garden reminds us that as gay men and women, we are living through happier times than those for whom that scrap of bushland was their final glimpse of the wider world.
This article was written for the Southern Star by Andie Noonan to help people remember Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden.
Supporters of Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden are disappointed to find the garden has again fallen into disrepair.
A red-faced Fairfield NMIT has been forced on the back foot again over its maintenance of the garden. In 2002, following reports of untidiness, it gave an undertaking to the then Victorian health minister that the garden would be looked after.
The garden was put under the spotlight recently by a journalist who stumbled across it in a dilapidated state. The journalist’s friend’s ashes had been scattered there.
The Victorian AIDS Council cared for the garden until Fairfield Hospital merged into Alfred Hospital in 1996. NMIT then took over the maintenance of the site.
An apologetic NMIT has now committed to ensuring the garden is once again looked after. NMIT director of client services Anne Bambrook told Southern Star the TAFE was committed to getting the garden back up to scratch.
“It’s no excuse — we’ve let it fall though the cracks but we’re doing something about it,” she said.
“When facilities go through transition arrangements they are not always as well-maintained as they should be or given the structural recognition they deserve.”
Bambrook said NMIT was already well underway with repairing the garden and has now included it in routine mowing schedules. A grounds gardener will ensure the garden is tidy. Wooden slats on seats have been replaced and varnished with linseed oil. Plaques on the memorial seats are being kept safe for future restoration in the garden.
“I think [plans] need to be tied down to make sure this important and significant site is respected in trust and NMIT will make sure that happens.”
Mannie De Saxe and his partner, Kendall Lovett, have been strong advocates for the garden’s upkeep.
De Saxe told Southern Star he was “horrified” at the state of the garden and said it’s vital someone in the community keeps an eye on it.
“Ken and I are in our 80s. We can’t do it — we’re too old, we need people to be interested to do it.”
Bambrook said she will meet with De Saxe and Lovett to put responsibilities in writing to ensure NMIT continues maintaining the site.
The garden was established in 1988 to mark the relationship between the VAC and former infectious diseases and HIV treatment centre, Fairfield Hospital. It has a special place in the community, as it’s the resting place for ashes of many who died from HIV-related illnesses.
email received from Anne Bambrook on 3 July 2009Dear Mannie,
I'm pleased that we're back in contact, though I've been a little slow to reply because it's semester break and so I've taken the opportunity to take some time off.
Next week is the second week of holidays andsome of the staff we need to get around the table to develop our Management Plan for the AIDS Garden are still on leave.
We think the Management Plan should cover some or all of the following:A statement about the origins and purpose of the Garden (We could take this from your website or write something together)
Mannie, do you and Ken have any thoughts on what else you would like to see in the plan? If so let me know. It would be our intention to have a draft to consider when we meet.
I'll email you late next week with a few dates for a meeting.
Cheers for nowAnne
email received from Anne Bambrook on 13 July 2009Just an update, Mannie
I'm meeting with the Campus Manager at Fairfield, the Head of the Horticulture Department and the Head of Buildings and Properties this Thursday (16 July). This is our first week back after the semester break.
We'll draft a document (a Management Plan) and send it to you for comment.
Hope the winter isn't treating you and Ken too badly!
Cheers for nowAnne
email received from Anne Bambrook on 15 July 2009Mannie,
I've just had a long phone chat with Lloyd James who had read of the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden, knows the hospital and the garden well and is keen to offer assistance to ensure that we develop and maintain an effective management plan.
I've copied this email to Lloyd and he is keen for you and Ken to have his phone number (9387 1052) if you would like to bolster the number of community supporters for our project.
Please ring him or email if it feels right.
I'll be in touch soon
Cheers for nowAnne
These photos were taken by Gary Jaynes when we visited Fairfield with Dale Withers, one of the founders of the AIDS Garden in 1987/1988.
This article by Julia Irwin in the Northcote Leader of 29 July 2009 is a follow-up to her previous article of 26 May 2009.
On-line version of article with comments:http://northcote-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/fairfield-aids-garden-spruced-up-by-nmit
The management plan above is undated, but we presume it is current as at 7 October 2009.
We informed interested people and media about the latest information on the maintenance of the AIDS Garden at Fairfield, and as a consequence, the following articles appeared in two papers - many thanks to the journalists and editors who followed the story up:
A new management plan for the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden has been announced by the Northern Metropolitan Institute of Technology.
NMIT occupies the site of the former Fairfield Hospital, including the memorial garden where the ashes of many who died from AIDS are interred.
Until its closure in 1996 Fairfield was the state centre for HIV/AIDS care and treatment.
In June this year MCV received letters from concerned community members over the garden’s state of disrepair.
Mannie de Saxe from Lesbian and Gay Solidarity Melbourne wrote: “the situation at Fairfield is one of shameful neglect”.
De Saxe, who runs the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Groves, has taken a keen interest in the maintenance of the Fairfield garden.
This week, he told MCV he is pleased NMIT has taken responsibility for the site.
“It is looking much better, they have certainly cleaned it up a bit, they have fixed up the benches which were in a deplorable state, but I think it needs a lot more work so that people can realise it’s a memorial garden and that it is a place of reflection.”
De Saxe said NMIT had “dragged their feet for the last seven years” in regards to their initial agreement that they would maintain the memorial site.
“For a long time they had refused to acknowledge the existence of that as a memorial garden, as a place where ashes have been scattered – in other words as a cemetery, if you like.”
De Saxe said while he was happy with the new management plan, which includes flora upkeep and monthly inspections, the issue of access to the garden was still a concern. Currently only weekday access is allowed.
“During the day it should be open seven days a week. It should be open on the weekend, as that’s when most people can go.”
While a provision has been made for access with 48 hours notice, it is not guaranteed.
De Saxe said this was “not good enough”. “More people would like to go but they simply cannot get in there.”
Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) executive director Mike Kennedy said a liaison person had been appointed by the VAC to work with NMIT in regards to the garden’s maintenance.
“John Hall manages our HIV services program,” Kennedy said. “John has been talking with NMIT through this process and has seen the documentation in regards to the management plan and they have agreed to ongoing consultation about it so it doesn’t fall into a heap again.
“What’s different now is that there is actually an openness in the institute to try and make this work.”
Kennedy said it was important that if members of the GLBTQ community had any issues with how the site was being run that they contact the VAC.
The director of client services at NMIT, Anne Bambrook, told MCV there were now “designated senior staff who are responsible for monitoring the site”.
“There is also a statement that clarifies the nature of the garden, which [was] previously somewhat vague.”
In related news, the 10th annual AIDS Quilt trivia night was held on Saturday night.
The event raised over $4,000 with proceeds going to the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project.
Leo Heimburger, secretary of the project, said funds will go towards bringing the quilt back to Melbourne and displaying it for its 25th anniversary.
Most of Victoria’s AIDS quilt is in Sydney, where it was moved when the Australian AIDS Quilt project was still operating.
The Australian project folded in 2000 and the quilt currently resides in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
“A big display would probably cost around $15,000,” Heimburger said. “There’s the freightage, the insurance, the publicity and a venue that could display it would cost about $10,000 a day.”
Heimburger said the 25th anniversary of the quilt will take place in 2013.
Restoration of the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden is underway with new temporary access times in place so the public can visit.
North Melbourne Insitute of TAFE (NMIT) Fairfield has also delivered on a promise to ensure the garden is included in overall maintenance of the campus, releasing a special AIDS Memorial Garden management plan on its website.
NMIT director of client services Anne Bambrook said work to improve the garden is going ahead, however, visiting times are still in a “transition phase” while a 150-bed student accommodation facility is being constructed in the area.
“Once that is completed in about March next year the campus will have 24-hour living, so there will be normal access,” Bambrook said.
Currently the public has access to the garden during campus opening hours only. Anyone wanting to visit at weekends needs to give the campus manager 48 hours notice.
Under the new management plan, NMIT has committed to ensuring pathways are free from overhanging shrubs, weeds are removed and furniture and signage are maintained. Monthly inspections and a condition report will be conducted and will steer any further maintenance work.
Bambrook said the temporary path to the garden would be replaced with a permanent pathway as part of landscaping around the student accommodation building.
Concern the AIDS Memorial Garden was in a state of disrepair was raised earlier this year when a journalist from a local newspaper discovered the garden had fallen into ruin.
Well-known gay rights activists and HIV carers Mannie De Saxe and his partner Kendall Lovett — now both in their 80s — keep an eye on the garden and were angered at the neglect.
De Saxe said he was happy NMIT had committed to care for the garden and he looks forward to full public access when the student accommodation is finished. “The weekend access is not quite satisfactory, as that is one of the main times people have a chance to get to the gardens, but we’re pleased,” he said.
Victorian AIDS Council executive director Mike Kennedy said he was satisfied the gardens were now being cared for.
“If anyone’s having trouble they need to let [NMIT] (Now MELBOURNE POLYTECHNIC) know if it’s still not working,” he said. info:
The garden can be visited by the public – access via the main entrance in Yarra Bend
Road. Details of times, parking etc at: http://www.melbournepolytechnic.edu.au/aids-memorial-garden/
The following three articles were published by the Preston Leader, Southern Star Observer and MCV following the re-launch of Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden. Our thanks to the people from these organisations who have once again helped put the Garden into the public arena.
NMIT plans extending road to Fairfield memorial after nursing it back to health
A NEW road giving public access was among plans announced at the relaunch of the Fairfield AIDS Memorial Garden last Thursday.During a ceremonial tree planting, the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE, Victorian AIDS Council and Gay Men’s Health Centre committed to caring for the garden and improving access.
The garden is the resting place for the ashes of more than 50 people who died of AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s at the former Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, on the site now occupied by NMIT.
NMIT client services director Anne Bambrook said the institute had applied for a Yarra Council planning permit for a road to give public access to the garden, likely to become a focal point for Melbourne’s World AIDS Day events.“We plan to extend the main campus road around the back and link it with the pathway that takes people through to Fairfield Boathouse,” Ms Bambrook said.
Victorian AIDS Council vice-president, former Fairfield patient and keynote speaker David Menadue said the garden was a special place.“This is where patients took time out from hospital in the last days of their lives and had a peaceful and tranquil refuge,” he said.
In May last year, AIDS patient carers and activists Mannie De Saxe and Kendall Lovett from Preston raised concerns with the Leader that the TAFE had let the garden go to rack and ruin, filled with weeds and broken furniture.
Mr Menadue thanked Mr De Saxe, Mr Lovett and one of the garden’s founders, Dale Withers, for their persistent lobbying for its restoration.In the past year, the garden has been nursed back to health, the furniture and pagoda mended and the lawns restored.Mr De Saxe said the garden was important in helping remember that so many people died prematurely.
“There are very few memorials around Australia to commemorate people who have died of AIDS,” he said.Almost 7000 Australians have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the epidemic began in 1981. World AIDS Day is on Wednesday, December 1.
The future care of the AIDS Memorial Garden located at the former Fairfield Hospital site has been assured thanks to a new partnership between the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) [since 2015 Melbourne Polytechnic] and the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC).Former hospital staff, patients and those involved in the HIV sector gathered last week to mark the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations.
VAC vice president David Menadue told the Star Observer the site was a highly significant area for all people affected by HIV, but especially the gay community.
“It’s a very special place for the HIV community because there’s so many spirits and memories from the past that are here,” he said.Menadue said when the garden was established in the late ‘80s it was “a place of refuge at a time of real turbulence”.“I hope people looking down will have positive vibes about what we’re doing today,” he said.
Menadue was set to plant a tree in the memorial garden to mark the partnership, but bad weather forced the ceremonial planting to be held in the nearby former chapel.
The garden was established in 1988 as a place of respite for patients in the then AIDS Ward. It has been through various states of disrepair over the last decade, however NMIT says it is committed to keeping the garden is maintained.
Long-time guardians of the area, activists Mannie De Saxe and Kendall Lovett, have been behind the push to have the gardens restored to their former glory.De Saxe told the Star Observer he was thrilled the garden would be maintained.“I am please we’ve managed to get this far,” he said.
Menadue praised De Saxe and Lovett for their determination in making sure the gardens are looked after. “Where would the HIV community be without activism?” he said.
NMIT client services director Anne Bambrook said a proposal had been submitted to Yarra Council to extend a road and improve access to the gardens.She said under the new management plan, NMIT would be responsible for the upkeep of the garden while the VAC would offer information on the site.
An important spiritual and historical site for the LGBTI community is back in safe hands after years of neglect and uncertainty.
As part of AIDS Awareness Week 2010, the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) [since 2015 Melbourne Polytechnic] and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC) came together last week to present Back to Fairfield, marking the re-commitment of both organisations to the care and management of the AIDS Memorial Garden at NMIT’s Fairfield campus.
The AIDS Memorial Garden was originally established in 1988 in native bushland behind the nurses' quarters of the former Fairfield Hospital (now NMIT). It was established primarily as a place of tranquillity and respite for patients in the Fairfield AIDS Ward and their families and friends.
After Fairfield Hospital was closed in 1996 the site was unoccupied until NMIT started running programs there in 2003. Rebuilding works and a contamination scare from the old hospital buildings restricted access to the site and as a result the Garden was neglected, if not forgotten; it continued to be largely neglected until early 2009 when NMIT began serious renovation work.
Back to Fairfield celebrated a Memorandum of Agreement between NMIT and VAC/GMHC to ensure the upkeep of what has become a sacred site for the LGBTI/ HIV communities. The ashes of some 50 former Fairfield Hospital patients are scattered there and brass plaques which appeared on numerous benches have been preserved.
The agreement comes after years of articles in the gay and straight press regarding the dilapidation of the site, and agitation from activists like Mannie De Saxe and his partner Kendall Lovett, now both in their 80s, who have for years kept up a campaign to see the Garden maintained as it should be. That pressure has finally borne fruit.
To celebrate the occasion, David Menadue OAM, vice-president of the VAC/GMHC and a prominent leader in the HIV/AIDS sector, planted a tree within the AIDS Memorial Garden and delivered the key-note address.
President of the VAC/GMHC Michael Williams said: “Fairfield Hospital is a place of immense significance in the history of HIV/AIDS in Victoria.“NMIT’s re-dedication of the AIDS Memorial Garden will create a permanent testament to this significance."As president of the VAC/GMHC, I look forward to our organisation assisting in managing the Garden as a space for reflection for all those we have lost – as well as our achievements in the fight against HIV/AIDS – for many years to come."
Letter in Preston Leader 7 December 2010
In response to Fairfield AIDS garden relaunched on northcoteleader.com.au Good to see the memorial garden being restored. It’s a pity more Australians don’t know about the importance of Fairfield Hospital in the discovery of AIDS and the vital work of Dr Ron Lucas and Dr Alvis Kucers.Peter Edmonds, online
The following article is from the Melbourne Times Weekly:
AIDS campaigners and NMIT have finalised a deal ensuring Fairfield's Memorial AIDS Garden is never again left to weeds and vandalism.
NMIT client services director Anne Bambrook committed to maintaining the garden on the Fairfield campus under a new management plan, and the Victorian AIDS Council and Gay Men's Health Centre will support those associated with the memorial and handle enquiries. "This ensures we continue managing that very small but very significant part of the Fairfield campus," Ms Bambrook said.
The announcement came with a rededication of the garden, originally established in 1988 behind the former Fairfield Hospital as a place of tranquillity for patients in the Fairfield AIDS ward.
Victorian AIDS Council and Gay Men's Health Centre vice-president David Menadue said the hospital's controversial closure in 1996 had been the end of an era for people affected by AIDS and HIV.
He said the garden's subsequent neglect had been painful.
"It's a very special place and so full of memories – especially of those who had their ashes spread there or trees planted in their names," Mr Menadue said.
From Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) eBulletin no. 42, 19 Dec 2010:
The AIDS Memorial Garden in the grounds of the former Fairfield Hospital in Melbourne was re-launched on World AIDS Day recently, with former hospital staff, patients and those involved in the HIV sector present. Future care of the garden, established in 1988, has been assured thanks to a new partnership between the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and the Victorian AIDS Council. VAC's Vice-President, David Menadue, paid tribute to Mannie De Saxe and Kendall Lovett for their determination in making sure the gardens are looked after. “Where would the HIV community be without activism?”, David told Melbourne's Star Observerhttp://www.starobserver.com.au/community/2010/12/01/garden-of-hope-to-thrive/37973.
The garden can be visited by the public – access via the main entrance in Yarra Bend
Road. Details of times, parking etc at: http://www.melbournepolytechnic.edu.au/aids-memorial-garden/
From MCV - 3 January 2011 - Year in Review 2010: News: 2010: In Headlines:
The end of 2010 saw an important spiritual and historical site for the LGBTI community back in safe hands after years of uncertainty. As part of AIDS Awareness Week, the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and the Victorian AIDS Council came together to present Back to Fairfield, an event marking the re-commitment of both organisations to the care and management of the AIDS Memorial Garden at NMIT’s Fairfield campus. The agreement comes after years of lobbying from activists like Mannie De Saxe and his partner Kendall Lovett, now both in their 80s, who kept up a campaign to honour what the garden represents to the gay community.
Click on to each section below to visit all SPAIDS and HIV/AIDS web pages:SPAIDS PART 1 - SYDNEY PARK AIDS MEMORIAL GROVES HOME PAGE
World AIDS Day Australia
GAY AND LESBIAN HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL - PART 3:LAUNCH PHOTOS BY PHOTOGRAPHER AS YET UNIDENTIFIED, 27 FEBRUARY 2001
Mannie and Kendall Present: LESBIAN AND GAY SOLIDARITY ACTIVISMS
Mannie De Saxe also has a personal web site, which may be found by clicking on the link: RED JOS HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:
MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)
Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)
This page updated on 27 DECEMBER 2011 and again on 30 AUGUST 2017