Teenage Tasmanian Indigenous artist Grace Williams has been the driving force behind two distinctive pieces of artwork which have pride of place at Leprena, the southern Tasmanian home of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
Working collaboratively with other young Indigenous people, 18-year-old Grace designed a mural for the back fence of the property. The mural portrays the young people’s connection to the place and reflects Congress’ aim to make Leprena a safe space for all within the community.
The mural is uniquely Tasmanian, with mutton birds in flight central to the design.
Inside the building, Grace was inspired to demonstrate Leprena’s importance as a gathering centre for her community. She chose to depict eight individual streams and a central piece, symbolising the nine nations in Tasmania prior to 1788. The nine nations come together at a central point and the colours used represent the land, sea and sky.
The works were unveiled when the President of the Uniting Church, Stuart McMillan, visited Hobart in November.
Mr McMillan offered high praise for Grace’s efforts.
“I was deeply impressed with that work, it is a wonderful mural,” he said of the piece. “It has a contemporary flavour but it also combines traditional elements.’’
“I imagine like most artwork, people could look at it and see lots of different things. Certainly, though, you would not miss that the central feature is a gathering place.”
Leprena community development coordinator Alison Overeem said it was important to give the young people a say in the design of the backyard artwork. It helped to establish a sense of ownership over the space and a more personal connection to the building and the work done inside its doors.
Ms Overeem said work would soon begin on repainting the fence mural in a long-lasting paint and sealing it.
She said that over the last 18 months Leprena had become a healthy gathering space for the local Indigenous community and their families.
This was built on developing long-term trusting relationships which have led to personal, social and cultural growth and development.
“This has led to engagement of other agencies in our community and cultural development work,” she said.
“We are now able to engage in, and plan for, more formal cultural learning and sharing experiences with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our community members, other organisations and indeed the wider Uniting Church.”
Ms Overeem said conversations around a range of health and well-being issues, as well as creating opportunities for participants to build on their cultural gifts had been pivotal to the planning, engagement and outcomes achieved at Leprena.
She was also pleased with the developing relationship between Congress and the presbytery of Tasmania.
“The presbytery is very welcoming. We have met some really lovely people and it is good to see that the Uniting Church is also excited about the relationship with Congress,” she said.
Mr McMillan said he was greatly impressed by the work being undertaken at Leprena.
“There is an excitement about what is happening there. The people heading this up are people who have been deeply involved in community for many years,” he said.
“It involves people who have been very much a part of the ministry, even if they have not been part of Congress per se for a long time. Now it is being gathered together in this.
“I went there to encourage them but I left very encouraged.”