RMIT lecturer Toni Roberts and members of the local community have designed the Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial as a reflective space in memory of the tragedy of Black Saturday.
The devastating bushfires of Black Saturday in 2009 will long be remembered for their scale and ferocity, the worst in Australia’s history.
This was also a very personal, local tragedy for the Whittlesea community in Melbourne’s north, with enduring impact.
The City of Whittlesea put out a public tender for the design of a permanent public memorial in 2012.
The tender brief was for a memorial to communicate to future generations the impact of the fires on the local community and to celebrate the community spirit that has supported those affected.
Communication lecturer Toni Roberts and the team at her creative practice, Hatching Studio, won the tender to design the memorial and develop interpretive content.
Roberts says the new memorial honours the experiences of the Whittlesea community, giving voice to their stories, helping to mourn loved ones and honour the spirit of community support and resilience.
“The granite pod form alludes to native seeds that propagate only after intense wild fires, with seeds dispersing from the pod and into the pond symbolising new life and regeneration,” she said.
“The memorial space embraces the visitor, offering a sanctuary for private remembrance and shared stories.”
Roberts intended that the memorial serve as a platform for community authorship of their own stories.
The memorial presents a thematic arrangement of text and image generated by the community to evoke the experience of the fires and their aftermath.
A “narrative wall” presents themes of fire, loss and the community spirit through image and text, while a “memorial wall” is dedicated to remembering loved ones lost in the fires
Contributors to the project include the Whittlesea memorial community Project Working Group, the Word Weavers writing group, and sub-contractors David Gargiulo (illustration and design documentation), Dianna Wells (graphic design) and Hamish Coates (landscape design).
A permanent installation with an intended life span of more than 60 years, it aims to communicate to future generations the impact of the Black Saturday fires on the local community and to celebrate the community spirit that continues to support those affected.
The memorial was officially opened by Danielle Green, Member for Yan Yean, at Toorourrong Reservoir Park.
Story: Wendy Little