I travelled to Canberra earlier than usual today so I could attend a ceremony to mark the 5th anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV X, and the unveiling of the design for a memorial on the banks of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.
There were well over one thousand people there, including Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Australia, former Governor–General Sir William Deane, the Chief Minister of the ACT Jon Stanhope, some representatives of local churches including Anglican Bishop George Browning, as well as federal MPs Peter Andren, Kate Lundy and Christine Milne.
You can read more details about the memorial and its design by clicking here. It involves a painted pole representing each of the 353 victims of the sinking, including shorter poles for the 146 children. The poles were laid out in a curving pattern down the slopes of Weston Park towards the Lake. There was a loop in the middle which made out the rough shape and size of the original boat.
The overall design of the memorial was conceived by Mitchell Donaldson, a school student from Brisbane. Hundreds of poles have been painted by people from schools, churches and community groups around the country. I even noticed one there from St Columban’s College, which is my old school (albeit moved to different location these days). I was a tiny bit surprised, as I couldn’t imagine being involved in a project like this when I went there, but I guess that was 25 years ago – (they even let girls attend the school now!)
The intention was to leave all the poles standing in Weston Park for a few weeks so that many of the people involved in the project could see what the memorial would look like, but this was blocked by the National Capital Authority – apparently anything in place for more than a day is a ‘permanent structure’ to them. Given the regular efforts by the federal government and their ideological soulmates to cover up details about this tragedy and generally downplay and dismiss it at every chance, I find it hard to believe this isn’t another example of it.
The Australian Capital Territory has a strange form of ‘self-government’. The Chief Minister can support and approve of a memorial being built in a Park on the shores of the City’s Lake, yet he has no control over an unelected Authority saying it’s not allowed to happen for at least another five years. I can understand the need for some planning controls over the Parliament House precincts, but this location is well away from there.