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Why Canberra needs the AIDS Garden of Reflection

Philippa Moss

Canberra’s National Arboretum is a beautifully fitting place for the location of the AIDS Garden of Reflection.

There are two dates each year when HIV and AIDS gets special attention – the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on the third Sunday of May and World AIDS Day on December first. However, it is the AIDS Memorials throughout the world which provide a daily opportunity to pay tribute to those who have lost their life to HIV and AIDS and reflect on the hope that current and future research provides.

Throughout the world these memorials help to forge links between the generations, those who have lost a loved one and those who experience HIV as a treatable disease. They can be found on every continent and the majority of capital cities.

The National Capital

In Canberra, our national capital, there is currently no place for the community to gather and reflect on the impact of AIDS. As a result, a community group of people living with HIV, their family and friends with the support of the AIDS Action Council have spent many years searching for the right site and raising funds. They have also been lobbying the federal and territory governments for a site in Canberra.

Due to the tireless support of patron John Mackay, the AIDS Garden of Reflection has been granted a home at the National Arboretum in the Gallery of Gardens, a series of connected gardens to be located on the Arboretum’s Events Terrace, where a total of up to seven gardens will be developed in the future. The AIDS Garden of Reflection will be incorporated as an important part of the Arboretum’s master plan and vision.

AIDS reflective garden image 2

The proposed plans for the AIDS Memorial Garden at the Arboretum

Located between the Village Centre and the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion, this 500 square metre garden will feature a range of native plants and sculpture pieces by renowned landscape architects with generous community support.

The space will provide, in perpetuity, a place of reflection so that the lives of people who have died from HIV and AIDS are not forgotten and their story is known by future generations. The garden is not only about remembrance and reflection but also about inspiration and action – most memorials are built after the struggle is over – there is currently no cure for HIV, people continue to be at risk and we need to work together to eliminate HIV in our community.

Women Living with HIV

The AIDS Garden of Reflection will serve to acknowledge all people impacted by HIV and that includes women who have died and those currently living with HIV. Women with HIV are almost invisible in this country so we need to talk about it, support one another and educate people about what living with HIV really means. Women with HIV are everyday women, mothers, daughters, educated women, cultural women and women from all walks of life.

Some interesting facts about women living with HIV:

  • Approximately 10% of people newly diagnosed and living with HIV are female.
  • Women tend to be slightly younger than men when diagnosed with HIV.
  • Women living with HIV in Australia are a diverse group. Many are Australian born while others were born outside Australia, including high prevalence countries in Africa and South East Asia.
  • Women remain more likely than men to report unwanted disclosure of their HIV status and the experiences of discrimination.
  • Women need access to treatments to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

There are women living with HIV all across the ACT and far too often their voices get silenced, their experiences unrecognised and their issues unaddressed.

The AIDS Garden of Reflection is a place for the whole community and we will work to promote the visibility of women living with HIV. We want to inspire, support, advocate, and give WLHIV the platform to step up and be heard.

Women often go underground after diagnosis and hide in fear of being labelled, judged and stigmatised. Acknowledging that there are women living with HIV will, hopefully, encourage women to test, understand that they are at risk and acknowledge the fact that this is a virus does not discriminate.


The proposed plans for the AIDS Memorial Garden at the Arboretum

We need your support

We are both proud and excited to launch the funding appeal that will support its construction. The fundraising is ambitious with a goal of $125,000 in a short period of time. Due to the support and hard work of the local community, the group has now raised $25,000. This is largely due to sausage sizzle sales organised by community members, the generous support of the Chief Minister Mr Andrew Barr and the tireless efforts and energy of the AIDS Action Council Patron John Mackay AM.

Now we have a home for the garden, we hope that the community will jump on board and support the project so that construction can begin.

Donations are fully tax deductible and you can donate online at

Image of ‘large trees…’ via Shutterstock


Philippa Moss

Philippa Moss is a HIV activist, professional feminist and best known for her outspoken voice promoting healthy public policy and healthy urban development. Philippa has been a happy resident of Canberra for the past 17 years. Originally from Sydney, she came to Canberra at a pivotal stage in her life. She is a proud mother of two children, a son and daughter in their teens/twenties, who as a Queer parent has always felt a part of Canberra’s greater Lesbian, Gay and Queer community. She was recently appointed the Executive Director of the AIDS Action Council (ACT), after acting in the role for the past two years. In 2015 she was awarded the ACT Telstra Business Women’s Award for Purpose and Social Enterprise, along with the Australian Institute of Management’s Not for Profit Manager of the Year (ACT) award. More about the Author

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