Newcastle, NSW
Cowper St. N & Fitzroy St. Community Memorial Park Carrington since 1 December 2004
without names
Community Memorial Park - Carrington - Newcastle
In the late 1990s, following completion of Grief Counselling, provided by Social Work employees of ACON’s Hunter Branch for bereaved parents of the Hunter Region whose children had died in the AIDS epidemic (1985-1996), the parents involved determined to :

1) produce a booklet depicting AIDS Quilts from the region, and
2) use proceeds from book sales to provide a permanent memorial to the heroism of the Hunter’s 150 young people, male and female, single and married (some with children), from both the ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ communities who had succumbed to AIDS. The preferred form of Memorial was a grove of trees within the city of Newcastle!

In 2003, the project director of the publication TWO STARS noted that Newcastle Council proposed to close a disused small road off Cowper Street, Carrington – industrial sites existed along its southern perimeter. She suggested the derelict land situated immediately to the south-eastern side of the bridge, opposite Connolly Park, would be an excellent location to develop a Community Park to include the desired grove of trees. The location was also most appropriate in that some years before the Carrington community had opened its heart in accepting, in its residential area, the establishment of McKillop House (once St Joseph Order’s convent). For many years, AIDS outpatients from beyond Newcastle, and their relatives, were accommodated and cared for here and mixed freely with Carrington residents without any hint of the rejection and stigma experienced everywhere else during those years.

The same project director was also a long-term Volunteer and Adopt-a-Park Coordinator with NCC’s Community Greening Centre. With support from this Centre, a proposal was put to the appropriate Council officers that a Community Memorial Park be established here. ACON Hunter Branch personnel were seeking a venue for the annual World AIDS Day gathering as the small site used for this purpose at John Hunter Hospital was being built over so there was support for the proposal from this group. So it came to pass that Council obligingly provided grass cover on the neglected site in time for the 2004 gathering on 1st December to mark World AIDS Day and people in attendance planted two Tuckeroo trees on the northern edge of the grassed land.

By early 2005 sufficient funds had accrued from book sales to provide the finance needed for the manufacture and installation by Newcastle Council of a handsome park seat facing Cowper Street bridge and Throsby Creek, on the parkland’s north west corner. This seat was dedicated at the 2005 World AIDS Day event, honouring our Hunter Region’s sons and daughters who had died from HIV/AIDS during the 10 years’ epidemic (by 1996 drugs had been developed and made available which reduced dramatically the mortality rate in the HIV-infected population in Australia).

As well as completing the Park seat, Council workers had prepared the ground along the southern boundary ready to receive mass planting – the grove of trees’ beginning! So on this same day, 1sr December 2005, people attending the ceremony were invited to choose and implant whichever tree/shrub (river oak or grevillea) they wished. The adjacent industry (Hunter Valley Signs) agreed to our use of their tap and water for the plantings whenever it was needed.

During the following year, the same company removed the ugly wire fencing and erected a tall powder-coated steel fence along its entire boundary with the park, greatly improving the appearance of the park and the grove of native plants. Following our request, Council agreed to provide mounding on the northern side of the park high enough to accept a large Hill’s Fig tree, to be named the Tree of Love, and supplied and planted in time to be dedicated on World AIDS Day, 2006. A Carrington industry, GRAINCORP, undertook the costs of these earthworks and the Community Greening Centre provided the tree. All came to fruition by 1st December 2006.

Photos © Judith Gatland

1 December 2006
Judith Gatland, Newcastle, NSW