SPAIDS TURNED 20 ON 15 MAY 2014 - THERE HAVE BEEN 37 PLANTINGS TO DATE.
SPAIDS Birthday Card
This was the first t-shirt designed by Ken Lovett for the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Grove Project, as it was originally called, in early 1995. Photo by Mannie De Saxe, September 2007
This was the second t-shirt designed by Ken Lovett for the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Grove Project, as it was originally called, in early 1995. Photo by Mannie De Saxe, September 2007
This t-shirt, designed by Ken Lovett for the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Grove Project, was produced commercially as a fund-raiser for the Project in August 1995. Photo by Mannie De Saxe, September 2007
The first use of SPAIDS on a t-shirt, designed by Ken Lovett, was in 1997. Photo by Mannie De Saxe in 2007
The Sydney Park AIDS Memorial Groves Tree Planting Project (SPAIDS) had, by the end of 2006,
completed its thirty-second tree planting day at Sydney Park. Co-convenor Mannie De
Saxe tells of the long haul from idea to the reality which is now the Sydney Park
AIDS Memorial Groves. South Sydney City Council Parks Department in 1996
erected signage in the park, designating the area as ''SYDNEY PARK COMMUNITY
TREE PLANTING PROJECT - AIDS MEMORIAL GROVES.''
It all started in 1992, when I became a carer with Community Support Network (CSN). This group trains volunteers to care for people with AIDS who want to stay in their own homes, where possible, and not have to be in hospital.
My first client and I became very friendly, as inevitably occurs in such situations, and I cared for him for about six months from when I first went to him, until he died.
For me this was a new experience, and a very traumatic one. I had not been in such a situation before, and it took me a long time to come to terms with his death.
At that stage I had read about some tree planting projects relating to people who had died from AIDS. I made some inquiries and discovered there were at least two such projects, one in Washington,DC, and one in the Blue Mountains.
I managed to make contact with the Blue Mountains group - Medlow Bath Park (Medlow Bath AIDS Memorial Park 2019) is where they have their grove - and some of the people involved gave me some ideas as to how to go about establishing such a project in Sydney.
I discovered that Sydney Park, in the South Sydney City Council area, which had been a brickworks and later a garbage dump, had been taken over by Council in 1989 in a deplorable state - an area so polluted that nothing would grow in it.
By 1990/91, a great deal of the pollution had been eliminated, gases such as methane had ceased to be given off from the garbage, and Council started laying out the area as a park and planting trees and grass.
In 1993, I started making inquiries about the possibility of establishing AIDS memorial groves in the park. I had discovered that Council was encouraging community groups to take part in planting trees there with the hope of establishing a park as a large recreation area in that part of Sydney.
Negotiations with Council began in 1993, and it wasn't until the end of that year and the beginning of 1994 that the project seemed likely to get off the ground.
I was initially a one-person ''committee'' and gained some moral support from CSN (Community Support Network) who wrote to me agreeing it was a good idea, and they would give me support to assist in negotiating with Council as an official AIDS body supporting the project.
My partner had finally retired from work and was now free to give me assistance so that we became a two-person organising group.
Council notified us that a planting would take place on 15 May 1994. Trees would be supplied free by Council and the site would be laid out and prepared for us for the day. Council also provided spades and drums of water so that we could plant the little trees and water them once they had been planted.
Our next problem was publicity, and in this respect we had quite a battle. We had to prepare flyers, decide where they were to be given out, attempt to get the community papers to support the project by giving us a bit of publicity, and generally to get the information into the concerned and interested community.
Finally the great day dawned bright and clear and warm, and from 10am till 4pm we had a fairly steady stream of visitors arriving to plant trees.
People came from as far as Queensland and South Australia for the ''ceremony''. Council had advised us that we were not able to put little commemorative plaques next to each tree and so we decided to record names alphabetically in a file.
Sisters of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence came around midday and performed a tree-blessing ceremony in memory of those who had died from AIDS, and they gave support to lovers, friends, families such as parents, brothers sisters, children, whoever felt that planting trees in memory of their departed was a good way to help to keep their memories alive.
Support from the Council that day was limited to the provision of the site, the trees, the spades and the water.
What a long way we have come since that first planting!
On Sunday 2 AUGUST 2009 we had our 35th planting at Sydney Park.
Council now provides us with umbrellas to shelter under from rain or shine, tables and chairs, barbecue food and drinks around lunchtime, a portable toilet nearby, and as much assistance as possible, visiting us on and off during the day to find out how we are getting on and to see if we have any other requirements.
Although we still have battles with publicity, we feel that we are, at last, gaining some community recognition, and hope to continue the work in the years to come.
To date we estimate that we have planted about 8000 trees, and our groves are becoming a reality as the trees grow taller and the Council's signage demarcates the area. There are also benches for people to sit on and relax and grieve or contemplate the loved ones they have lost or just to sit and enjoy the peace surrounding them in the quietness of the park.
SPAIDS plantings have recently been extended to include lesbians and gays who have died as the result of violence, the Nazi Holocaust, and as another memorial alternative to the Quilt and Candlelight.
South Sydney City Council has now built a focal point in the Groves where future tree planting groups will be able to assemble. It may also serve as a meeting place for such community events as Candlelight rallies and AIDS-related ceremonies on World AIDS Day as well as other memorial events throughout the year.
SPAIDS has available at each tree-planting day a loose-leaf file for people to write names in. The pages in the file provide for people to write the name of the person being commemorated, any message about the person, and the name of the person leaving the message. To date, as at the end of 2009, we have collected about 1,200 names, which represent about 20 per cent of the people who have died of HIV/AIDS in Australia since 1983.
The names are typed up alphabetically and kept in a file. Our record files are always available at tree-planting days in Sydney on the last Sunday in July every year. The names in the file are not put onto our SPAIDS web pages for privacy reasons, as there are people who have requested the names recorded be not made public.
LINOCUT BY LENORE BASSAN FOR SPAIDS CO-COORDINATORS AND PRESENTED TO THEM BY LENORE AT THE 32ND PLANTING ON 30 JULY 2006
A dedication ceremony took place at the 21st planting, on Sunday 27 May 2001, of the Sydney Park AIDS Memorial
Groves Tree Planting Project. South Sydney City Council has built a ''Reflection Area'' as part of the SPAIDS Project to be used as a focal point and gathering place in the AIDS Groves. The dedication involved the unveiling of a plaque in the back wall of the ''Reflection Area'' by the Mayor of South Sydney City Council, Councillor John Fowler, and the
initiator of the Project, Mannie De Saxe. About 70 people were present for the ceremony.
The Groves are now nearing completion, and further plantings will involve back-planting to replace trees which have died during the last 12 years, since the start of the Project.
South Sydney City Council has been absorbed into Sydney City Council. In 2004 we were informed that there would only be one planting at the park each year and it was likely to continue to be on National Tree Day - which is usually towards the end of July.