Coffs Harbour City Council – The Old Camp
Coffs Harbour City Council engaged the National Aboriginal Design Agency to facilitate the creation of contemporary designs that recognise the significance of the “Old Camp – Yaam Nguur Jalumgal”, the first major Aboriginal settlement in Coffs Harbour until 1957.
The site, now known as Fitzroy Oval, sits directly opposite the town’s Regional Gallery and library in Coff Street.
Through consultation and workshops with Elders, NADA identified a number of stories and engaged with local Aboriginal high school students to design a beautiful art piece that captured the narrative of the significance of the area to local people.
This allowed for a modern interpretation of traditional stories and yarns to be shared between generations, and be captured permanently for locals via these inspired designs.
A series of workshops was held for “yarn ups” between local high schools and Gumbaynggirr Elders. Elders shared their stories from the past with 30 Aboriginal youth from local high schools.
School students were also mentored by Gumbaynggirr artist Brentyn Lugnan and emerging artist Alanna Shorter, who encouraged them to express their own interpretations of the Elders’ stories through art.
Upon completion of the workshops the 30 students submitted more than 100 artworks for consideration for the site, with blind selection by members from the Yandarra committee, the council’s Aboriginal consultative committee.
The stories that were identified from the Elders and community consultations as significant reminders of the ‘Old Camp’ were:
“The tap” – as the only source of fresh drinking water
“The swimming hole” – a place of fun and happiness
“Living conditions” – reflecting on the need for people to source and reuse material to build humpies
“The future” – as envisaged by the students.
Five student designs were selected:
- Dallas Torrens, Orara High, for her tap design
- Jessika Sandry, Toormina High, for her living conditions design
- Jonah Blackburn, Bishop Druitt College, for his family connections design
- Mikaela Brown-Hickson, Coffs Harbour High, for her water spirit design
- Tyrahn Vorhauer-Craig, Coffs Harbour High, for his living conditions design
The students’ artworks formed a special pop-up exhibition that ran in Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery.
NADA ensured that correct licensing was in place with each of the successful youth artists receiving a license fee for the work. This encourages them to get involved in community projects that connect them back to their culture, creating pride and aspirations for their future. Importantly, the process also educates the youth artists, their families and the wider community about copyright and why it is so important.
At NADA, correct licensing practices are paramount to protecting Aboriginal artists and those who invest in their work. An artist always maintains copyright of their work, even after it is sold. NADA is proud to lead the way with its licensing templates in this area, created in consultation with intellectual property specialist Terri Janke.
The designs have been cut into COR-TEN steel which is made to rust over time, becoming a deep ochre colour which creates a dramatic visual statement against the charcoal grey concrete walls. It is displayed on large metal panels at the new amenities building at Fitzroy Oval.
The metal panels have been backlit with LED lighting, making the designs and stories accessible in the evenings as well as through the day. They can be seen by the public directly opposite the Regional Gallery and library and next to the public swimming pool.
Daniel Heather, section Leader, city prosperity at Coffs Harbour City Council said: “I can’t speak highly enough of the Fitzroy Oval art project and NADA’s coordination of it all. We have achieved our primary goal of creating an artwork that the community can be proud of.”
The project was made possible with the support of AFL ACT/NSW, Cricket NSW, Coffs Harbour City Council and the Yandarra committee.
Do you have an idea for a community cultural project?
For information on how you can work with NADA please contact us on 02 6658 1315 or email us here