Work starts on AIDS Garden of Reflection

As Prince Harry and Elton John team up at the 2016 International AIDS Conference in South Africa, locally the AIDS Action Council of the ACT recently secured a significant contribution of $25,000 from ActewAGL to assist in the construction of the AIDS Garden of Reflection.

After 10 years of planning and fundraising, construction of Australia’s first AIDS Garden of Reflection will begin on Monday 25 July at the National Arboretum Canberra.

The AIDS Garden of Reflection is the brainchild of Richard Allen (also known as Rachel), who came up with the idea of the garden in 2006 after losing a friend to HIV. Richard, who has been HIV positive for 27 years, also lost his partner to AIDS in 1994 along with 12 other friends the same year.

Richard said that the idea of the garden was to give people a way to remember those affected by the disease that isn’t a cemetery setting. “I wanted somewhere to remember my friends who I lost too soon. Going to a cemetery is so hard because you’re surrounded by people that loved ones have buried. I wanted the garden to be somewhere tranquil, peaceful and heartfelt to be with the people we’ve lost in spirit.

“The garden will be for everyone who’s suffering, everyone who needs somewhere to sit and remember the good times. My partner is not buried in Canberra but was raised here and we lived our lives together here so I wanted a place to bring his spirit home.

“Canberra is the perfect place for the garden and the Arboretum is so peaceful and harmonising; it’s the perfect place to sit and look over the lake and Black Mountain Tower,” said Richard.

Richard began raising funds for the project in 2006 but it was a slow process. In 2012 he approached the AIDS Action Council of the ACT with the concept of the garden.

“The AIDS Action Council has been fantastic. I’ve been a volunteer for over 30 years and when I approached them about the garden idea they got right behind it and began fundraising.”

AIDS Action Council Deputy Executive Director Sue Webeck, said “The AIDS Garden of Reflection will give many people a place to go and remember those who have died as a result of HIV or AIDS. It will provide a place for the community to gather and inspire action in the continued effort of “getting to zero” (zero HIV transmissions globally). There is no cure for HIV; people continue to be at risk and the AIDS Garden of Reflection will provide us with a centrally located, highly visible reminder of this as well as a place to stand in solidarity for those living with and impacted by HIV and AIDS.

“The contribution from ActewAGL to our fundraising campaign has significantly supported us in reaching our target. Although we still need another $50,000 to complete the project we are now beginning construction; a very important milestone in the project,” said Sue.

ActewAGL Director Marketing and Corporate Affairs Paul Walshe said “We’re very proud to have been able to help the garden reach the construction stage. This will be an important and

special place for many people in our region who have been touched by HIV or AIDS and we look forward to seeing Richard’s vision of a peaceful, reflective garden come to life.”

Patron of the AIDS Action Council of the ACT John Mackay generously provided a kick-off donation of $10,000 to begin fundraising and he’s been instrumental in assisting the Council in securing the National Arboretum Canberra as the site of the garden as well as involving businesses in Canberra in the cause.

“ActewAGL's donation has given our fundraising campaign a huge boost. They have a long history of supporting causes that are important to our community and I think it’s a great recognition of the many members of our local community, including ActewAGL staff and their families, who have been touched by the harsh impact of AIDS over the last 30 years,” said John.

Sue urges the community to take part. “We still need the community to get behind the project and help us to raise funds, they can make a tax deductable donation, turn up to one of our fundraising events or share a story of how HIV/AIDS may have impacted their life. Visit www.aidsgardenact.com.au to find out more.”

The AIDS Action Council is hosting an event to raise funds for the AIDS Garden of Reflection and to remember Dr Peter Rowland and mark the 20th anniversary of his death. The event will be held at King O’Malley’s on Thursday 11 August at 5:30pm. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online www.peterrowland.eventbrite.com.au

For further media information only:
Sue Webeck
Deputy Executive Director - AIDS Action Council
Mobile: 0420 240 801

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