Our Patron: John Mackay
In 2015 the AIDS Action Council welcomed John Mackay as the first official organisational patron. Mr Mackay continues to make an invaluable contribution towards achieving the goals of Meridian by transferring the innovative and proactive attitude evident throughout his considerable career to combat discrimination and improve public awareness of HIV/AIDS.
Mr Mackay was inspired to join Meridian after the death of two of his brothers from AIDS-related illnesses within weeks of one another. It was during this time that John first noted the close-knit, supportive community of friends and community groups that rallied around the Mackay family.
“It was at a time when AIDS was very new to Australia, one of my brothers was in the first five or 10 people diagnosed in this country, and people were terrified of it, they didn’t understand it,” Mr Mackay said. “I think there was a fair bit of homophobia going on in Australia at that time. I think in some states if you were homosexual you could still be charged with a crime, so it was a pretty tough time all around.”
“I think [the perception] of AIDS has changed a lot. It’s now much better understood, and there’s much less fear about it which is a good thing,” he said. “I think it is a message we need to get to right across Canberra and if that involves going on knocking on some doors in the Assembly or Parliament or businesses, then I’ll be very keen to help them,” Mr Mackay said.
We look forward to an ongoing relationship with John, who adds his experience, wisdom and skills to our goal of ending new transmissions by 2020.
MORE ABOUT JOHN MACKAY
You can find a comprehensive biography of John Mackay here, along with a list of John’s recent awards and distinctions below.
- 2004 Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
- 2008 Canberra Citizen of the Year for his contribution to the ACT community, especially as an exceptional business leader and through committed service to a wide range of community and charity causes
- 2009 Honorary Doctorate, University of Canberra
- 2012 Grand Officer of the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile (this is the highest award conferred on a foreign citizen, and is for achievements in the field of arts, sciences, education, industry, trade, humanitarian and social cooperation)
AIDS GARDEN OF REFLECTION
The AIDS Garden of Reflection is a living tribute to those lost to AIDS and in support of those living with HIV.
Designed as a place of contemplation, the garden provides an opportunity for families, friends and supporters to honour those lost to HIV and AIDS, to heal, reflect and develop hope.
Located next to the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion in the Arboretum’s Gallery of Gardens, it has been designed to provide a sense of calm and comfort, a special haven featuring a curving arbour with red flowering climbers and a shallow rock pond. A series of benches and rock seating arranged throughout the garden enables visitors to reflect individually or in small gatherings.
The Garden was the brainchild of Richard Allen (also known as Rachel) who came up with the idea of the garden in 2006 after losing a friend to HIV. Richard said that the idea of the garden was to give people a way to remember those affected by the disease that isn’t a cemetery setting. “I wanted somewhere to remember my friends who I lost too soon. Going to a cemetery is so hard because you’re surrounded by people that loved ones have buried. I wanted the garden to be somewhere tranquil, peaceful and heartfelt to be with the people we’ve lost in spirit.”
The garden was made possible through years of fundraising and advocacy by a group of people living with HIV, their families and friends, and the support of Meridian. Major funds were supplied by ActewAGL, our own Patron John Mackay, the Snow Foundation, the AIDS Trust of Australia, the ACT Government, the John James Foundation, King O’Malley’s and the National Arboretum, who have contributed to a giant community effort.
Designed by John Patrick Landscape Architects, the Garden was opened on 2 April 2017.