Workers' Memorial welcomed

Megan Doherty
March 15, 2012

An advocate for families who have lost loved ones in workplace incidents or disease has praised the design of a $3 million National Workers' Memorial to be built in Canberra.

The winning design of the memorial was unveiled last night at Parliament House.

It will be built in Kings Park on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin and is due to be completed by March next year and dedicated a month later.

The winning design - called Workers Glade - was developed by Sydney-based architecture firm Johnson Pilton Walker, which also designed Canberra's National Portrait Gallery and Kings Avenue overpass.

The memorial is to honour and pay tribute to all of the working Australians who lost their lives to work-related accidents, incidents and disease.

It has been funded by the federal government.

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson, who runs the not-for-profit support group Work Injured Resource Connection, campaigned for a forest memorial to deceased workers in her home town of Adelaide. She also supports the families of deceased workers.

Her own brother John Jacobs was killed in a workplace accident in 1969 when he was just 16. He fell off a partially-loaded semitrailer carrying hay - driven by their father - while working for the family's transport company.

Ms MacKenzie-Ferguson also suffered multiple injuries in 1994 when she was injured by falling office equipment when a storeroom collapsed. She was at Parliament House last night for the unveiling of the winning design and said it was ''stunning in its simplicity''.

''The design is elegant and inspiring and I'm hoping when people come and see it when it's finally built, they understand lives that could have been saved have been lost. A lot of the workplace deaths are [avoidable],'' she said.

A design competition was held late last year by the National Capital Authority, with a jury selecting the winning design from 26 entries.

The memorial will feature eight slender columns clad in stone unique to the state or territory each represented. Viewed from above, the location of the columns, laid out like a map of Australia, correspond with the locations of each state's capital city.

NCA chief executive Gary Rake said the memorial would be suitable for commemorative ceremonies as well as quiet individual contemplation, with seating part of the design.

''The memorial is located in an area designated for non-military commemoration. The new National Workers' Memorial will complement other commemorative works in the surrounding parklands, including the National Police Memorial and National Emergency Services memorials,'' he said.

''Memorials within the national capital hold a special national significance. It is expected the National Workers' Memorial will be enriched over time through commemorative ceremonies and events held on the site.''

NSW Labor Senator Doug Cameron, who chaired the jury that chose the winning design, has long been an advocate of a memorial for workers. ''The memorial will serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of work health and safety and the need for a determined and continued effort by all to prevent work-related accidents and disease,'' Senator Cameron said.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten unveiled the design, saying the memorial would be a focal point for the national commemoration of Workers' Memorial Day on April 28 each year.

The location, commemorative intent and design for the memorial have been approved by the Canberra National Memorials Committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister.