Friends of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village launch commemorative garden which honours lives lost

The lives of the city’s founders and other formative people will be forever recognised after the launch of a commemorative garden at Flagstaff Hill.

Team work: Friends of Flagstaff Hill members Carole and Brian O'Meara with Father John Fitzgerald and Warrnambool City Council director of city growth Andrew Paton in the commemorative garden. Picture: Madeleine McNeil

Team work: Friends of Flagstaff Hill members Carole and Brian O'Meara with Father John Fitzgerald and Warrnambool City Council director of city growth Andrew Paton in the commemorative garden. Picture: Madeleine McNeil

The Friends of Flagstaff Hill chairman Ron Sproston officially opened the garden on Tuesday which included a blessing by St Joseph’s Church priest Father John Fitzgerald and an address by Warrnambool City Council director of city growth Andrew Paton. 

The garden, located inside the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, commemorates south-west pioneers, people who have tragically lost their lives along the Shipwreck Coast and a new seat which pays tribute to village volunteers who have died.

The garden was funded and built by the Friends of Flagstaff Hill.

Dr Sproston said the first draft plans were drawn up in 2013. “(Member) Cate Dickson put the first money up, she wanted to have the graves refurbished and we said ‘why don’t we take it further than that? Let’s make it a commemorative garden,” he said. 

The pioneers of the south-west grave, which was located further up the hill, had to be dug out and was rebuilt and relocated in the garden. 

“(Volunteer) Brian has basically rebuilt it. None of it was complete. This is just bits that were cannibalised and put together with bailing wire. Brian’s had to take it all apart," Dr Sproston said.

The memorial for people whose lives were lost along the Shipwreck Coast has remained in its current location and was also refurbished. 

“It gives us the ability to commemorate the three groups. The stones are rock stacks of the Shipwreck Coast,” Dr Sproston said. 

Ms Dickson kick started the project calling for donations from friends and family when she celebrated a milestone birthday. She said she was pleased to see the finished product.

“That cemetery was falling to pieces,” Ms Dickson said. “It was looking untidy and needed to be looked after.”

Life member and volunteer Marlene Bird also donated to the project and said the number of people who committed to it highlighted its value to the community. 

“The memorial garden is an important part of not only the camaraderie of what happens between the volunteers but the ones that we worked with but are no longer here,” Mrs Bird said.

Fr Fitzgerald said it was nice to have the people’s lives honoured and plans to donate a plant or shrub to add to the garden. “What’s been lovely is it’s been a community project,” he said.

Mr Paton said the commemorative garden was another asset for the maritime village and it was a great example of the work of volunteers.

“We have some of the highest participation rates for volunteerism in the city and that’s something we should be immensely proud of," Mr Paton said. 

“This is an example of volunteers using their skills and knowledge and plain hard yakka to get things done otherwise it wouldn’t happen. Volunteerism generates terrific value for our community.”