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Commemorating the life of Coen

05 Dec 2017

Commemorating the life of Coen Image

Momentum is building to commemorate in Docklands the life of Coen Ashton who died aged 20 in October.

Coen and his family spent a lot of time here accessing the best of Australia’s medical care. Born with cystic fibrosis, Coen had a double-lung transplant in 2012, recovered well but suffered kidney failure about two years ago.

His mum Dawn, who works in Docklands, supports a move by local businessman Andrew Ward who wants to have the playground at the southern end of Harbour Esplanade named after Coen.

“Coen was an inspirational child,” Dawn said. “His story encourages other kids to follow their dreams.”

“His message was always that tough times didn’t have to mean dark days. He never wasted a day.”

Coen was the first person to be awarded all three of The Pride of Australia medals – state, national and Peoples Choice.

Mr Ward trained Coen in his gymnasium in 2012 while the family was staying in Docklands awaiting organ donation. With only 20 per cent lung function and suffering diabetes, young Coen struggled with physical exercise, but needed to build his strength to endure the necessary post-operation rehabilitation.

Mr Ward said the playground needed an overhaul and it would be appropriate to name a revamped park after Coen.

“Coen would ride his kick scooter over here from Yarra’s Edge with his little brother Kai. It was a special place for him, even though he couldn’t do much more than watch,” Mr Ward said.

As a 13-year-old, Coen rode a jet ski the length of the Murray River to raise funds for and awareness of organ donation. Today, his inspirational story features in the national education curriculum.

When the family came to Melbourne to await donor lungs, they settled here in Docklands to be close to both the Royal Children’s Hospital and The Alfred, which was the only hospital in Australia to undertake organ transplants on children.

Struggling financially and living on their boat, the Yarra’s Edge community literally took the family in – contributing more than $10,000 for apartment rent at a local fundraiser.

Mr Ward, a member of the representative group of the Docklands Community Forum expects the wider Docklands community to support his plan for appropriate recognition for Coen.

He said the early signs were encouraging and he had started the required process to organise a suitable memorial for Coen.

And while he is immediately pursuing a memorial for the playground, he says the playground is currently not of a suitable standard to carry Coen’s name.

Dawn agrees, saying that capital works renewal would present a perfect opportunity to name the area after her son.

“A new park, with a new look and a new name would be perfect,” she said.

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