We are honoured to be temporarily displaying a section of the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilts, which were created to commemorate the lives lost to AIDS. Thank you to resident organisation Thorne Harbour Health for providing the opportunity to display this important and moving piece of LGBTIQ+ history.
This year is the first World AIDS Day (December 1) that Melbourne’s AIDS Memorial Quilts are displayed as heritage listed objects in the Victorian Heritage Register – a first in Australia and possibly one of the first instances in the global AIDS quilt movement.
Following in the footsteps of AIDS Quilts created in the San Francisco in 1985, the AIDS Memorial Quilt tradition started in September 1988. The ‘Melbourne chapter’ of the movement began at the historic Fairfield Hospital – with volunteers distributing sewing instructions and receiving quilt panels from across Victoria. Quilt ‘panels’ were often produced by family, friends, loved ones, and chosen family of individuals who died of AIDS. These 3 feet by 6 feet panels, the size of a standard grave, were then sew together in ‘blocks’ consisting of approximately 8 panels.
The first public display of Melbourne’s AIDS Memorial Quilts was on World AIDS Day, 1 December 1988, as part of the Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt. In subsequent World AIDS Days, ‘the Quilts’ would be ceremoniously unfolded and displayed alongside candlelight vigils.
Following the closure of Fairfield Hospital in 1996, custodianship and coordination of the project moved to the office of the (then) Victorian AIDS Council at 6 Claremont Street in South Yarra. Today, Thorne Harbour continues to look after the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt and its 27 blocks consisting of 209 panels – each handmade and
individually designed to commemorate a person or a group of people who died from an AIDS-related condition.
As noted in the official listing recommendation to the Heritage Council of Victoria:
“While the Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt began as a commemorative endeavour, it has become one of Victoria’s most valuable resources for promoting a compassionate and educational dialogue about HIV/AIDS within diverse communities. Its non-threatening nature and artistic and creative approach enables accessibility to the content and allows people from all walks of life to learn about the AIDS epidemic from its human side.”
On display at the Victorian Pride Centre until December 12.