It’s time to get the shovel and watering can out for the Sydney Park AIDS (SPAIDS) Memorial Grove tree-planting day. This year the planting coincides with National Tree Day on Sunday, August 2.

Anyone is invited to take part and Sydney City Council will supply young Australian trees from its nursery.

The Council will also provide a barbecue picnic from midday and there will be a tree-blessing ceremony in memory of those whose lives have been lost to HIV.

The grove was established in 1994 as an AIDS memorial. The area now also commemorates GLBT people who have died as a result of violence and is also a memorial for victims of the Nazis.
It is estimated some 8000 trees have been planted in the grove.

Once discarded council land, the memorial has slowly been transformed over the years, largely due to the determination of individual community members.

There is now a reflection area with benches for people to sit on to relax and contemplate loved ones in peaceful park surroundings.

Mannie de Saxe and his partner Kendall Lovett, now in their 80s, were the original founders of the grove and have been carers of people living with HIV. The couple started the tree-planting project to deal with the grief of losing those they cared for and to provide a reminder of those taken by the virus.

We were both carers for people living with HIV and AIDS in the worst periods of the epidemic in the late ’80s and early ’90s. As far as we’re concerned we want to try and commemorate all those people who died far too young, de Saxe told SSO.

De Saxe said it is vital the community remains behind the event to ensure the grove is not forgotten.
We need people to be interested to keep the grove alive.

To date, the grove marks the memory of around 1200 people whose names have been collected. De Saxe said this represents about 20 percent of those who have died of HIV in Australia since 1983.

info: Planting 11am and 3pm will be in the dedicated AIDS Memorial Groves, Sydney Park. Look for the Old Brickworks Chimneys entrance, opposite St Peters Station.

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