Friends of the McKay Memorial Gardens in Sunshine - Oral History Workshop

This was a lovely relaxed workshop run over two October Saturday afternoons in a hall adjacent to the McKay Memorial Gardens. The Friends group successfully applied for a Public Record of Victoria Local History Grant to assist them in developing an oral history project to capture the range of memories, anecdotes and engagements with the Gardens by its community over the last seventy years or so.

I was very pleased to be able to help them learn about the subtleties and intricacies of oral history and really look forward to seeing what they come up with when their project is complete. They plan excerpts on their website - http://www.mckaygardens.org - and to write articles or even a little booklet about the community history of these gardens.

The social history the Friends Group are compiing is the missing link that will connect today’s community with the recorded history of these important Gardens. An excerpt from the website written by Catherine McDonald, a member of the Friends, explains this history and follows the image below.

It was all useful. The presenter was excellent. She was patient, allowed people to say what they wanted to, gave constructive advice and observations. Encouraging.
— Thank you for this lovely testimonial!

The Historical Significance of the Gardens, by Catherine McDonald, 2007

The McKay gardens are defined as an 'industrial garden.' Such gardens have been rare in Australia. Only two remain relatively intact: the Fletcher Jones Gardens in Warrnambool (1948) and the H.V. McKay Memorial Gardens (1909) (formerly the Sunshine Gardens) in Sunshine…To understand the significance of the Gardens we need to understand the situation in which they were created. In the late 18th and early 19th Century, European (particularly British) society underwent the radical transformation of the Industrial Revolution. One consequence of this was the growth of the urban 'slum'. In the absence of effective and affordable transport, workers were obliged to live close to their employment, industrialists needed large numbers of workers and there were few planning restrictions. Factories were built within residential areas, and property owners were able to subdivide surrounding land into tiny allotments to build cramped tenements for housing workers…One of many reform responses to urban squalor was the development of the concept of the 'garden suburb’… We take the concept of a 'garden suburb' for granted now, but in the early 1900s the idea was still radically progressive. The layout of the Sunshine Residential Estate by H.V. McKay (1906-1909) was the first implementation of the concept in Australia…The Sunshine Gardens were a key component of McKay's concept for a livable environment "gardens, parks, bowling greens and so forth have an uplifting influence on the people, and make them feel more satisfied than they are when the surroundings of their homes are dull and unattractive”…