In 2005, the ‘Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden’ was built in the grounds of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead under the guidance of Rita Williams, Senior Aboriginal Health Education Officer. It was designed by Aboriginal people as a place of cultural importance and supported by a grant from the Aboriginal Health Branch of NSW Health. The project was constructed by Co-Ordinated Landscapes.
Working with Bronwyn Bancroft – a well-known Aboriginal artist – the garden design represents the Hospital as a meeting place for communities and a place of healing and reconciliation.
The totem poles and seven circles represent Australia’s states and territories and the Aboriginal communities within. The circle of hand-made tiles, designed by Aboriginal children and their families under the guidance of artist Elizabeth Ronney and Rita Williams, honours their stories.
Garden commemorates the children who were forcibly removed from their families and communities under the policies of former governments.
The Hospital formally apologised for the part it played in the removal of Aboriginal children. Dennis Dunn from the Wiradjuri clan, on behalf of the Dhurruk People, accepted the apology from the hospital. Aunty Edna, a Dhurruk elder, donated a rock acknowledging the Hospital was built on Dhurruk land and she wrote a poem in both Dhurruk and English which is engraved on a plaque. Moving forward and the garden is now part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legacy Strategy and Action Plan 2018-2022.
Fifteen years later, the garden is still under the guidance of Rita and in need of some minor repairs. “Co-Ordinated Landscapes has had a long association with the Children’s’ Hospital at Westmead but working with Rita and her team to create the Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden was a highlight so we are delighted Rita contacted us 15 years later to help with its renovation and at such a poignant time, as Rita is retiring next year and this garden will be her legacy” said Carl Small Co-Ordinated Landscapes General Manager.