Wednesday Jun 07, 2023

Quilts a legacy of Victorian lives lost during AIDS crisis



Quilts commemorating Victorians who died during the AIDS crisis have been heritage-listed to ensure victims’ legacies endure.

The 27 quilts are made up of more than 200 panel sections put together with the help of volunteers at Melbourne’s Fairfield Hospital in 1988.

Each of the panels was individually designed to commemorate a person or people who died from an AIDS-related condition, with their loved ones or community group volunteers pitching in to make them by hand.

Thorne Harbour Health, formerly known as the Victorian AIDS Council, has been the quilts’ custodian for several years.

The organisation announced on Wednesday that the state’s heritage council decided to list the works on the Victorian Heritage Register, collectively called the “Melbourne AIDS Memorial Quilt”.

Doris Beecher, a former convener of the project whose son Stephen is included in one of the panels, said her family was delighted the quilts would be protected.

“Stephen would be humbled and touched by this legacy,” she said.

Cheryl Olver, whose son Darren is also featured on the quilts, said the listing protected their love for each other.

“My Darren would be thrilled to be immortalised in this way, because we loved him, and he loved us,” she said.

Heritage Council of Victoria chair Philip Goad said the quilts were one of the most important objects associated with the AIDS crisis in the state.

“It is an important example of community and activist art and highlights the impact of the AIDS epidemic,” he said.

The Victorian Heritage Register protects about 2400 sites, objects and collections.

Melbourne’s quilts were inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt movement in the United States.



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