Koori art brightens walkway

Anne Simmons

A giant sooty owl stands as gatekeeper to Morwell’s Waterhole Creek underpass as a lace monitor’s forked tongue laps at walkers who travel past.

The street art painted over a weekend in September depicts some of Gippsland’s most striking endangered animals, including a Leadbeater’s possum, an emu and fish meant to inhabit the creek – tapered galaxias.

“It brightens up the walkway. It lightens it up for our community, our kids, for non-Indigenous,” Marilyn Fenton, one of the artists involved, said.

Ms Fenton and local artist Ronald Edwards Pepper worked with about 15 children involved in The Gathering Place’s Koori Youth Group while a team of street artists from Melbourne led by Jesse Toby painted the most complex features of the work.

The venture follows on from the success of last year’s project at the rail underpass at Whittakers Road, Traralgon.

Funding for the project came from the Justice Department and The Gathering Place manager Carolyn Whalan said it gave the children ownership over artwork.

“The message we’re trying to get through is … when kids do damage to things, how it feels and if they do street art like this, good art, then people enjoy it,” Ms Whalan said.

After a day of painting at the Traralgon underpass last year, the children returned to find their work had been tagged.

“That was the educational message – how does somebody like it if their house was done like that or had to come and scrub their fence? And it was like a light bulb moment to them all,” Ms Whalan said.

Ms Fenton said working with the children “was a laugh”, but they also learnt skills in using spray paint and colours.

Both local artists would like to see more work of this nature in the Latrobe Valley’s public spaces and Ronald Edwards Pepper said it helped encourage young people to become good artists in the future.

“When they grow up they can walk past here and let people know they did this and that’s their hand prints,” he said.