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.
-œIt’s no excuse -” we’ve let it fall though the cracks but we’re doing something about it, she said.
-œWhen 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.
-œI 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 -œhorrified at the state of the garden and said it’s vital someone in the community keeps an eye on it.
-œKen 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.