A mural worth a thousand words
30th November -0001
Wander through the streets of Melbourne's creative hub, Fitzroy, and no doubt you'll stumble upon some intriguing street art. Now, a vibrant new mural by Gunnai Waradgerie man Robert Young is a welcome addition to the suburb's colourful cultural landscape. Bringing to life the exterior of Mission Australia's social-enterprise restaurant, Charcoal Lane, the artwork shares the story of the region's Aboriginal roots.
Robert Young, with the help of two local artists, painted the mural over four days. Incorporating the past, present and future, the artwork - Celebration Dreaming - references Aboriginal identity, connections and culture in Fitzroy and highlights the significance of the area, and building, for the artist and for the local Aboriginal community.
"My great, great grandparents were the first Aboriginal people to live on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, setting up the first church for local Aboriginal people in their home. My grandfather and grandmother created one of the first Aboriginal legal services in Australia here in Fitzroy. And my mum worked as a nurse on the dental bus run by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service which was originally based where Charcoal Lane is now," Robert explained.
The Charcoal Lane building is an ideal location for the mural, with its various ties to Fitzroy's Aboriginal history. From 1973 to 1992, it was home to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service which aimed to address the specific medical needs of the surrounding community.
Today, the restaurant creates Aboriginal-inspired dishes incorporating native ingredients and offers a supportive traineeship program for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspiring chefs. Current students – including Robert's cousin - contributed their handprints to the mural to symbolise the role of young people in creating the future.
Program Manager Troy Crellin is supportive of the mural explaining: "Charcoal Lane is not only serving a culinary story spanning hundreds of generations but now our exterior features a powerful reminder of local Aboriginal heritage. For Charcoal Lane students, this mural is an important recognition of their history."
Robert has carefully considered the mural, with each section having its own symbolic meaning.
The eagle's wings spanning the top half of the artwork is Bunjil – the creator of the Kulin nation. The waterfall symbolises the well of knowledge and acknowledges the past, while the two-storey tree represents the future. One of the most significant features of the mural is the portraits of Aboriginal people, left intentionally ambiguous so young people can picture their own family members in them.
A special event was held at Charcoal Lane this week to launch the mural in conjunction with the annual Gertrude Street Projection Festival. The mural was commissioned by Yarra City Council as part of an anti-graffiti project.
Robert (left) stands with his two assisting artists in front of their completed street art installation.