Published on 19 May 2022
Thanks to the efforts of passionate community members, a sculpture honouring three women who significantly impacted the lives of the Kurnai people from the Drouin area will be designed by local artists and put on public display in Baw Baw Shire.
The project titled ‘Three Women on Kurnai Country’ will see local artists Jessie McLennan, Rebecca Vandyk-Hamilton, and Jeannie Haughton collaborate with Kurnai elder Aunty Cheryl Drayton to create a life-size bronze artwork and accompanying historic storytelling piece.
Project Manager and Director at Arts & Health Gippsland Rebecca Vandyk-Hamilton believes the piece will have a significant cultural impact. "This sculptural monument pays tribute to three women who nurtured their families and their wider community, at sometimes great personal cost,” she said. “In this respect it is both cross-culturally relevant and a fitting subject for public commemoration.
“More importantly, it pays respect to First Nations women first as a way of beginning to bring a gender balance to the number of public monuments already erected that honour men. I hope that in future we see other public works of art that commemorate other women who have made a deep and lasting contribution in the Baw Baw region."
A key feature of the monument is that it will enable storytelling among First Nations people and the whole multicultural community that call Baw Baw Shire home. Author and playwright Jeannie Haughton, who is also involved with the project, says the new artwork “will provide a physical place and a prompt to recognise the extraordinary contribution of three First Nations women.”
“This tribute encompasses not only the physical work, but also the invitation it brings as a place to gather, walk, talk and pass along stories,” she said “Dorothy (Dora) Hood, Euphemia (Euphie) Mullet Tonkin, and Regina (Gina) Rose maintained Kurnai culture in the Drouin area in the face of massive historic change and the systematic racism and oppression of Australian Government laws, bodies, policies and practices."
Prior to works commencing, a public event will take place at the Drouin Soundshell from 2.00pm on Friday 27 May 2022 – the first day of National Reconciliation Week. We invite Community to come and connect, the gathering will be an opportunity to describe the goals of the project and invite members of the public on the journey to follow the sculpture through to its planned completion in November this year.
The project is supported by a $155,416 Victorian Women in Public Art Grant, part of a wider a State Government program that supports the development of permanent public art to recognise remarkable women and their commitment to their community.
Baw Baw Shire Council has also invested $40,000 from its Public Art Fund towards the sculpture, in line with its commitment to improving gender equality and increasing the recognition and representation of local First Nations people in Baw Baw.
The project follows on from Council’s funding support for a Rotary Club of Warragul project to create an Indigenous Art Garden at Rotary Park, Warragul.
Quote attributable to Mayor Cr Michael Leaney
“Three Women on Kurnai Country project is a beautiful tribute to three remarkable First Nations women who contributed so much to the culture and society of Baw Baw and the wider Gippsland community.
I encourage all community members to join us for the project commencement event in Drouin on 27 May and to follow the journey of this significant sculpture and the stories that exist within it and which will develop around it into the future.”
Image: Rebecca Vandyk-Hamilton and Jessie McLennan, two local artists who will be working on the sculpture.