ACT News

Govt backs the SIEV X memorial

The ACT Government has agreed in-principle to the controversial SIEV X Memorial remaining in Weston Park until at least 2033 as its proponents move to shore up support for the installation.

Territory and Municipal Services says the memorial is licensed to remain in the park until August 30, 2013.

Govt backs the SIEV X memorial
Govt backs the SIEV X memorial 

The Government had in addition given its in-principle support to the memorial remaining in its current location for another 20 years beyond that - to 2033 - providing certain conditions were met, a spokeswoman said.

Those conditions were that the SIEV X committee covered all costs related to the memorial including maintenance, repairs and insurance cover including public liability.

Appropriate approvals also had to be obtained from the National Capital Authority and relevant ACT authorities to support the licence.

The placement of the memorial has again stirred debate after a report recommended it be relocated out of Weston Park because it had no connection with the park.

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But a spokeswoman for the Chief Minister's office reiterated this week there were no plans to move the memorial.

One of the proponents of the memorial, renowned Raising Boys author and former Australian father of the year Steve Biddulph, said the project committee would be ''seeking support and views from Canberrans about whether they value the memorial being there in the park''.

''We get lots of emails already from people who say they always take visitors to Canberra to see it and they are very moved and impressed,'' he said.

The SIEV X memorial stretches across about 400m of the park, remembering the 353 asylum-seekers killed when the Indonesian fishing boat SIEV X sank in 2001. The memorial is a collection of poles representing each person who perished. It was the result of a nationwide competition and the poles were made by schools, churches and community groups.

The memorial was first erected in 2006 temporarily by supporters holding up the poles. Since 2007, it has been granted seven temporary permits and then the three-year licence.

The then Stanhope and Howard governments were at odds over the installation, with the ACT government supporting it but the Federal government opposing it.

The recently released Weston Park conservation management plan recommended the memorial be relocated because it was ''inconsistent with the cultural heritage character'' of the park, went against the TAMS memorial policy and had no direct association with Weston Park.

But Mr Biddulph said Weston Park was the right place for the memorial.

''The memorial was designed for that site and over 500 schools submitted designs in a national competition using a plan of that site. The design brief included use of the water and nearby landscape. The winning design symbolised the deceased parents and children on SIEV X arriving on our shores and representing each individual since they had only been numbers, a dehumanising aspect of the refugee crisis,'' he said.

Mr Biddulph said he started the memorial project with Uniting Church minister Rod Horsfield ''because I could not believe that so many women and children had died with so little acknowledgement''.

When asked about criticism the memorial is political and should not be in the park, Mr Biddulph said ''the deaths of 353 parents and children was too huge to be just a matter of politics''.