- Project name: Bairnsdale Aboriginal Arts
- Organisation: East Gippsland Shire Council
- Grant fund: Graffiti Prevention Grants
- Grant amount: : $18,282
- Total project cost: $26,326
- Project Partners: Federation Training, Victoria Police, Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative, Local Aboriginal Network, and Aboriginal artists (lead artist and mentor Alfie Hudson)
In a first for East Gippsland, young people in Federation Training’s Koori VCAL program have created a bright public mural to deter illegal tagging on a prominent car park wall. Graffiti had to be removed once a month and the surrounding car park was viewed as unsafe. Illegal graffiti was also an increasing and costly problem in the Bairnsdale CBD.
The project partners recognised local Koori youth likely felt alienated, and aimed to reduce the risk of turning to tagging and encourage a sense of pride and belonging by creating a valuable public artwork celebrating Koori culture.
Lead artist and mentor Alfie Hudson introduced the students to local Koori history and culture through excursions. They also explored spray paint art and storytelling techniques in workshops and learned the differences between street art and illegal graffiti, including the consequences of vandalism.
The students helped develop the mural concept design, which is inspired by the history and stories of the Gunaikurnai people, and workshopped it with community stakeholders to ensure it was appropriate. Many community members complimented their work as the mural developed.
The mural has not been tagged since its completion, and less graffiti has been observed in the town centre. The artwork has created a bright point of interest for the area, increasing foot traffic and passive surveillance, and the whole community has embraced the mural design.
The students developed a sense of pride and ownership as the mural progressed, supported by positive mentor and community feedback. Many have shown the mural to family and friends, spreading the message to respect community artworks and culture.
Following the project, there has been increased engagement in Federation Training’s Koorie Unit programs. Other schools are visiting the mural as part of anti-graffiti education, and reporting of illegal graffiti in the area has increased.
Despite initial consent, the owners of the original mural site rejected the proposed design. However, council quickly identified another wall for the mural and secured permission from the land owner, tenant and adjoining land owners. This highlights the benefits of early consultation with land owners on mural design principles and having an alternative site organised to avoid delays if circumstances change.
It was important and valuable to discuss the mural concept design with local and regional Koori representatives and organisations, as changes and concerns could be addressed early, avoiding delays.
The students were most engaged when creating the mural, showing the importance of moving quickly from educational aspects to mural creation.
For more tips and lessons learned watch a video about the project.