Healing Through Nature: Monash Healing Garden

7 February, 2024

The Monash Healing Garden came about through a personal tragedy. My brother Richard and his wife Sarah had a baby, a little boy, who was very unwell and was at the Monash Medical Centre and then Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. They spent a lot of time at The Children’s, which, coincidentally, Sarah had worked on as an architect. When the baby passed, she wanted to give something back, and she thought of a garden.

The Children’s didn’t need anything, so I introduced her to Barbara Yeoh, the Chair of Monash Health. Barbara was extremely excited and put Sarah in touch with the right people at Monash Health, and then they put this design together. Many Aboriginal people use the hospital and Sarah got Jefa Greenway of Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV) involved. That connection has since continued on to other meaningful projects.

“We had picnics with staff in Fawkner Gardens to raise money, and matched donations, and we gave in-kind advice around programming and methodology. It’s easy stuff that doesn’t take long for us, but has a big impact. We didn’t give all the money – ANZ gave quite a lot, and Monash gave some, but through Sarah we were instrumental in making it happen,” said Hansen Yuncken Director, Louise Hansen.

“There’s now a space you can go to sit, with sculptures and native plants. It’s just much nicer. When you’re in hospital it’s not usually a joyous time, so to have somewhere pleasant to retreat to is very important.”

— Louise Hansen, Director

The aim of the Aboriginal Healing Garden was to make the hospital experience more welcoming for Indigenous people. Completed in 2014, it was created through a partnership between Monash Health, Design Think Tank and the Dandenong District Aboriginal Co Operative. The partnership reflected a strong commitment to Close the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage through health, cultural and place-making initiatives.

A key incentive was to connect Indigenous people from remote and urban areas of Australia. The Monash Medical Centre supports Indigenous patients from all over Australia. Many of them have moved to Melbourne for medical needs and experience displacement when relocating. In fact, the beginnings of the Close the Gap movement can be traced to a Monash University medical student, Matthew Campbell, who brought together politicians and doctors at a conference in 1994 to improve health outcomes for remote Indigenous communities.
— Sarah Naarden

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