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Thomas Road Artwork reflects First Nations heritage

Thomas Road Artwork reflects First Nations heritage
16 March 2023

New roundabout on Thomas Road in Casuarina will feature a public artwork that reflects and celebrates local First Nations heritage.


Caption: Thomas Road public artwork concept by Milne Stonehouse and Nyoongar Yamatji artist Justin Martin.

A public artwork that reflects and celebrates Nyoongar heritage and the important cultural context of the area will be installed in the centre of a large roundabout to be constructed on Thomas Road.

Mayor Carol Adams expects the Thomas Road public artwork will become synonymous with entering the ‘gateway’ of Kwinana as a welcoming and engaging moment for visitors and locals alike.

“The striking installation will be an iconic entry statement standing nearly 10m tall, with the artist’s representation of delicate spider orchids within a ‘yooral’ carrying bowl sitting atop three paperbark trunks,” Mayor Adams said.

The installation will be illuminated through the night and will be visible from the Thomas Road off-ramp.

Main Roads WA contributed $300,000 for a public artwork and a further $250,000 was allocated by the City, collected from the developer contributions that are applied to public art.

Main Roads WA appointed Element to lead the project which consulted the City’s Boola Maara (Many Hands) Advisory Group to seek input into the artist brief and the artist selection.

The Boola Maara is made up of Local Elders, community leaders and organisational representatives, City staff and Elected Members, and part of its role is to ensure matters that are relevant to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are addressed in the most appropriate way.

Thirteen artists expressed interest in the public art project, and of these, four were invited to develop a concept with three concepts received.

The artwork was commissioned to broadly reference the significance of the surrounding land to Aboriginal people, including five known Aboriginal Heritage sites in the area.

These five sites include The Spectacles; Treeby Road Lake; areas around Mortimer and Woolcoot roads in Wellard; the Bellway Sand Quarry in Wellard; and the recently registered Thomas Road Aboriginal Heritage Place which cultural heritage consultancy Archae-Aus regards as one of the metropolitan area’s most significant artefact sites as it includes site types listed in the Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry system as artefacts/scatter, ceremonial, skeletal material/burial, camp, and water source.

Elder and Councillor Barry Winmar, who co-chairs the Boola Maara with Mayor Adams, said the artist team selected for this project in December was a collaboration between Milne Stonehouse and Nyoongar Yamatji artist Justin Martin, supported by Nyoongar Yamatji cultural advisor Cheryl Martin and a technical team.

“Justin Martin’s art is based around traditional techniques and stories passed down from his grandmothers and a prominent Elder local to Kwinana,” Cr Winmar said.

“Cheryl recently worked with Justin to produce an artwork on the walls surrounding the lookout in Rockingham.

“The artist’s concept includes spider orchids as they were part of the Nyoongar spring diet with the stem eaten and the flowers used for ceremonial headdresses.

“The yooral was often used by Nyoongar women as a vessel for carrying babies, food and tools,” he said.

The design also went to the City’s Public Art Review Panel (PARP) for consideration to ensure it aligned with the City’s Public Art Master Plan. The PARP made recommendations to the artist team which will be taken into account in the final concept.

The Milne Stonehouse/Martin team will also host professional development workshops locally to build capacity among other local creatives, including Aboriginal artists, by equipping them with the skills to write tenders and market their work.

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