Open House Melbourne: Victorian Family Violence Memorial project

Open House Melbourne: Victorian Family Violence Memorial project

As part of Open House Melbourne, RMIT’s Mark Jacques and Amy Muir will join a tour and panel discussion about the Victorian Family Violence Memorial project.

The landscape memorial at the St Andrews Reserve site in Melbourne was unveiled in early 2022 as a space for remembrance, reflection and healing.

We speak to Mark Jaques and Amy Muir about their involvement in this all-important project.

Is this one of the more challenging projects you have worked on? If so, why?

Mark Jacques: It was certainly challenging due to the nature of the topic that’s being memorialised. Thankfully the State Government’s brief contained a comprehensive community consultation report that thoughtfully summarised the issues and the thoughts of various members of the community that were directly affected. This was essential information for the design team to review and to understand in considering the form of the project.

We were also assisted by the selection of an excellent site by the City of Melbourne and an existing site master plan that set an agenda for how this memorial and future memorials might by sited within St Andrews Place Reserve.

Did you personally consult with survivors of family violence and if so, was this an important part of the design process?

Amy Muir: As part of the project working group, selected representatives of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC) worked closely with us in the development of the Memorial. The VSAC members represented those with lived experience of family violence and really were co-designers with us on the project. 

They encouraged the development of a particular approach to memorialisation and how the space would be perceived; they assisted in the crafting of words for the memorial plaque and they were able to describe what we were doing in ways that allowed us to see our work in new ways. Our relationship with the VSAC representatives has been one of the great and enduring delights of this project. 

An important part of the design process was the engagement with traditional custodians that informed a number of the gestures within the memorial. These included the embedding of ashes from a smoking ceremony at the beginning of the construction within the concrete pavers, the incorporation of a smoking vessel and a dedicated inscription in Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung language that has been adopted as an overarching statement of inclusion and care for those who engage with the memorial; "Lore of the land keeps People safe."

Although it's a memorial, you've opted to create "landscaped rooms" for reflection rather than a traditional-style monument, how important was that in terms of its attraction and usability?

Mark Jacques: We realised early on that the idea of a traditional monument of Memorial would be impossible to imagine for this brief. Traditional monuments are often objects and represent a specific event or figure. They’re also often retrospective, commemorating something that has already happened. 

Family violence cannot be represented in the same way – it affects everyone, rather than specific people and it has not, and arguably will not be concluded. In the face of this unquantifiable scourge, we’ve rejected the object as a form of memorialisation and chosen to make a space that is visible, kind and introspective as a way of granting permission for people to come and reflect. We think that the memorial’s design creates a different kind of invitation. It talks gently about strength. 

Finally, the memorial is in a very public place, and I imagine, many people who visit the site, may not necessarily be victims or survivors of family violence, is part of the role of this space to raise awareness, bring attention and start conversations about family violence?

Amy Muir: Yes, this has been a very deliberate decision. It’s important to us that a Memorial to this most hidden of social problems should be located in a place of public prominence and designed in a way that everyone was invited in. 

The memorial is also seen as a space of education and designed at a scale that children can engage with. It’s clear from watching people’s behaviour in the space that many are not aware of the Memorial’s specific purpose and visit the space to enjoy the aspect to the park or to sit amongst the purple planting. This is fantastic. It may only be on a return visit that they notice the memorial plaque or the design language, which differs from the standards of the rest of the city and realise the connection to a bigger idea and to Family Violence.

Victims and survivors will have a very direct and intentional relationship to the space. Others will have the meaning of the space to develop subtly in a way that allow their own awareness and reflection on the problem to develop. We speculate that this gentle form of memorialisation to a problem which is anything but gentle, will be a powerful way of starting conversations that might otherwise not have happened.

A tour and panel discussion will be held on Saturday, July 30 with Amy Muir (Muir), Mark Jacques and Liz Herbert (Openwork), Skye Haldane (City of Melbourne), Jennifer Jackson and Russell Vickery (Victims Survivors Advisory Council) and Sarah Lynn Rees (Jackson Clements Burrows Architects).


Story: Rachel Wells


  • Architecture
  • Arts and culture
  • Urban Design

Related News

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.