Memorial funded through Pick My Project

FAMILY: Holly, Arabella, Lulu, Hugo and partner Freya with one of Matthew Harding's sculptures. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric
FAMILY: Holly, Arabella, Lulu, Hugo and partner Freya with one of Matthew Harding's sculptures. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

Trentham will soon have one of acclaimed international artist Matthew Harding’s sculptures installed in one of its public spaces after a proposal for the project was awarded with a Pick My Project grant.

The installation of two ‘jigs’ which were instrumental in creating a number of Harding’s sculptures, including a sculpture near Melbourne Zoo, will be placed at Trent Creek Reserve after the project was voted for by community members. 

Harding ended his life on February 22 this year, so the installation of the jigs will ensure he has a continued artistic legacy in the town he loved so much and gave so much to.

The grant will enable the community to purchase the jigs off the family to support them financially, while acting as a contemplative space for his family and friends to reflect on his life and career.

The memorial will be installed at the entrance to Trentham to raise awareness of the high rate of suicide among men in regional areas.

Matthew Harding’s family expressed gratitude to their community for voting for a project to honour their beloved father and partner.

Freya Maclaren, Harding’s partner, said the project meant so much to her and the four children, 10-year-old Arabella, nine-year-old Lulu, six-year-old Holly and four-year-old Hugo.

HONOURING DAD: The family are happy Matthew Harding will be acknowledged in Trentham. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

HONOURING DAD: The family are happy Matthew Harding will be acknowledged in Trentham. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

Ms Maclaren said she was appreciative of the fact the art installation would mean Harding could leave a positive impact on the town of Trentham.

“It means so much for so many people to appreciate Matt’s work and that we are now able to give back to the town that has looked after us so well since Matt’s death,” she said.

“I feel so touched that members of the community went to so much work to put this together and that Matt meant so much to them to do so.”

Ms Maclaren said the installation would be a positive landmark for the family, which the children would walk past every day, that is a joyous piece for celebration of everything that Harding was. 

“It is going to mean so much for the children, that even though their dad is gone, he has left something behind to give to the whole community.”

She said it would also have meant a lot to Harding, who had always wanted a piece of artwork in his home town.

Ms Maclaren said the issue of suicide in regional communities was prevalent, where men worked hard and there was a culture of internalising their feelings. 

It is going to mean so much for the children, that even though their dad is gone, he has left something behind to give to the whole community.

Freya Maclaren

“Since Matt’s death, I’ve realised what a big issue suicide is, particularly with males in regional areas,” she said. 

“Anything we can do to value and appreciate our men and understand how hard it is and what they go through, we should.”

“I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what’s needed but I know something is. What has been important to me is not to gloss over this or pretend it didn’t happen, but about reaching out to other people who have been affected by suicide and moving away from the stigma and the shame that surrounds it.”

She said her eldest daughter had recently asked her what she would say to her dad if she could go back in time and say one last thing. 

“I just told her that I would tell him to stay with us. If I could say anything to somebody who was suicidal, I’d just tell them to stay. You might not feel loved right now, but you are. And there is no way that the world is better without you.”

“Just give it one more hour, one more day. I know it feels bad right now but just keep trying. Give it a little bit longer.”

If you or somebody you know is affected by this story, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.