Family Violence Memorial – Sarah Lynn Rees

My name is Sarah Lynn Reese. I'm a Palawa Trawlwoolway Plangermaireener woman. 

I work at Jackson Clements Burrows architects, as a lead indigenous advisor, and my role in this project was to provide indigenous advisory services and engagement with traditional custodians.

The first step of engaging with traditional custodians is to listen, to listen and understand the importance of acts of cultural practice and how they can be incorporated into a project.

Indigenous cultures and Western cultures memorialise differently. But this memorial has to be a place
for everyone. Of course, in this case, it also had to reflect the wishes of the Victim Survivors Advisory Council.

So we worked in partnership with all three, and we yarned to understand what all groups needed in order to feel comfortable in this place, in order to feel that they could memorialise or remember in the way that they choose to.

A significant portion of the population that this memorial represents are indigenous people. And so it's important that when they enter this site, they know that they're welcomed and that they know that this site is safe.

Though engagement with traditional custodians, a phrase was repeated over and over again, and that phrase was 'the law of the land keeps people safe' so that speaks to our responsibility as people who live on this country to look after country and in return, country will look after us, but also understanding that we as humans are a part of country. We're not separate from it. So looking after each other means that we will be looked after in return.

There are a number of design moves that we've made in partnership with traditional custodians to signal that safety and that welcome. These include the inclusion of language. 'Law of the land is to keep people safe', both in English and in language, and to transition the site from a place of its original use to what it is now.

We undertook a smoking ceremony with Uncle Bill Nicholson and used the ash that remained over from the smoke and embedded that into the concrete landscape that you walk upon when you enter the memorial.

We've also included in partnership with the traditional custodians a smoking vessel so that all forms of cultures can practice and memorialisation in the way that they choose, be it to sit and reflect or be it to actively cleanse. 

Indigenous cultures are living and practiced. The act of taking care of someone or something and the act of practicing rituals or processes is an important part of expressing both who we are, but also allowing us to communicate and share knowledge with each other.

So this site and the design response reflects that there are multiple ways that people would memorialise or remember. And I think the act of remembrance is what's important here. You're remembering someone's life or you're remembering a survival. And in order to do that, you need to be able to undertake that remembrance in a way that reflects your cultural practice.

In indigenous cultures, we live our culture, we practice our culture, and the act of remembering is tied to that living and practice. So being able to undertake ceremony on this site, being able to engage with this site in a way that is culturally appropriate for indigenous peoples, ensures that not only indigenous people, but all people who come to this site to seek solace and remember, have a place to practice their culture.