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Darlinghurst AIDs memorial one step closer

A proposed AIDS Memorial is set to join the Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial (pictured) in Darlinghurst’s Green Park. Photo: John Moyle

By  JOHN MOYLE

Almost two years since a petition calling for an AIDS memorial to be located in Darlinghurst’s Green Park, the project is now one step closer after the City of Sydney unanimously agreed to call artists for expressions of interest.

The motion was proposed by councillor and deputy mayor Jess Scully and seconded by the Chair (the Lord Mayor) and voted for by all councillors after an additional clause by Councillor Kerryn Phelps.

“While we may not agree on everything I think that it is wonderful that there is support across the board for our LGBTQIA+ community and for recognition for a painful moment in Sydney’s history,” Councillor Jess Scully said.

Mike Galvin is a Darlinghurst local and was seven years old in 1982 when the first case of AIDS was reported in Sydney.

In 2018 Mike and local artist Christopher Lewis used local community group Darlo Darlings to start a petition for a memorial that gathered 1,332 signatures that in March 2019 was presented to the City of Sydney. 

“My part of it was to get the community involved which was really refreshing as it wasn’t just the LGBT community that supported it, but also local families that wanted to have their children grow up to understand the history of the area in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic spread unforgivingly through the community and around the country,” Mike Galvin, petition convenor said.

The memorial’s location in Green Park is well chosen as it is a place of significance for the Sydney gay community and especially during the AIDS epidemic. Australia’s first dedicated AIDS unit Ward 17 South was part of St Vincent’s Hospital located just across the road from Green Park.

“I know that St Vincent’s is very supportive of the memorial as well,” Mike Galvin said.

“Candlelight vigils were also held at the park, in honour of loved ones lost to AIDS related illness,” Nicolas Parkhill, CEO ACON said.

“Over the years, Green Park has been a place of comfort, solace and reflection for many affected by HIV/AIDS – it is a place that holds special significance for our communities.”

In the first two years of the epidemic, between 1983 and 1985, over 4,500 cases were recorded, mainly in gay men and mainly in inner Sydney and Melbourne. All were fatal and its peak in the early 1990s around 1,000 Australians were dying every year.

The Lord Mayor Clover Moore has had a special bond with Sydney’s inner city gay community since her early days as an independent alderman for Redfern with the then South Sydney Council, where the gay and lesbian community were among her earliest and most enthusiastic supporters.

She later made a successful move to Macquarie Street.

“When I was the state MP for Bligh in the 1990s, we had the AIDS crisis, and the epicentre was our   electorate, it was like wartime, with funerals and candlelight marches and vigils”, Councillor Moore said.

The City of Sydney is now calling for submissions from artists for ideas for the memorial.

“The project brief will not be prescriptive, which means that artists are welcome to select their own medium, understanding the challenges of making a permanent public art work that has to withstand outdoor conditions,” Cr Scully said.

“This memorial will have to compliment those existing memorials, such as the Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial, which commemorates all LGBTQI+ people murdered, tortured or persecuted because of their sexuality, gender identity or gender status.”

The plan is to shortlist up to five artists/artist teams by an evaluation panel for Stage One who will be paid $2,500 to develop their proposal to a second stage.

“The criteria for selection include response to the brief, response to the site, and methodology as well as relevant experience,” Cr Scully said.

Shortlisted artists will be provided with a Stage Two artists brief with the City of Sydney providing individual feedback to the shortlisted artists.

Stage One is open until 11am Thursday 30 July and Stage Two for shortlisted artists is open from 25 August to 29 September.

The total budget for the project is $130,000 which includes fees and design, manufacture and installation of the memorial.

“Many young people growing up this century are not aware of this past, so an AIDS memorial in this significant location will help ensure that this history is not forgotten,”Cr Moore said.

“A memorial could also remind us of the ongoing impacts of people living with HIV,” Alex Greenwich, Member for Sydney said.

The City of Sydney is preparing to host the first World Pride event in the southern hemisphere in 2023 that will coincide with the 45th anniversary of Sydney’s first Mardi Gras Parade and the 50th anniversary of the first Australian Gay Pride Week.

It could also be a great time for the unveiling of the Green Park AIDS memorial.

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