In its continuing quest for community engagement, Mildura Base Public Hospital this week unveiled an Indigenous art installation on the ceiling of the hospital’s entrance foyer.

The stunning artwork depicts the strong Indigenous ancestry in our region, and was created by artists Sharon Kirby and Peter Peterson.

Sharon is a proud Barkindji woman who is inspired by her father Gordon, who was an artist and skilled craftsman, making various Aboriginal tools, artefacts and weapons.

Aunty Sharon has spent her life capturing the stories of her ancestors through her artwork, with a strong focus on the animals and the colourful landscape of the Murray River.

Peter is a Barkindji man born in Wentworth and has lived his whole life in the Mildura region. He has a strong connection with country and uses art to tell the stories of his ancestors.

Uncle Peter’s painting of Lake Mungo shows the three traditional owners, Barkindji, Ngiyampaa and Muthi Muthi who shared and cared for the land.

The footprints are a representation of his ancestors who walked these lands more than 50,000 years ago.

These footprints of the family were revealed by the moving desert sands. They left their footprints behind so their story could be shared for generations to come, Peter explained.

The Base Hospital’s engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) community is something that both Mildura Base Hospital’s CEO Terry Welch and the board of management have worked diligently to foster and improve.

With the support from MDAS, Mr Welch and his management team were able to engage prominent Aboriginal artists Sharon and Peter to develop artwork that tells the story of their ancestors and their connection with country.

“Part of building that trust has been to find ways to engage the ATSI community more in the hospital,” Mr Welch said.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the organisation’s focus in reconnecting with the community and a key piece of that is the connection with our Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander community and this artwork reflects that 100 per cent and we are firmly committed to continuing to build that relationship.
“In the course of the past three months I have come to know Sharon and Peter well and they have taken me on a journey of understanding culture and art and what it means from the story depicted in Sharon’s work.
“It’s been an amazing journey and I thank them publicly for that.”

Mr Peterson said that the artwork was about the Bakindji people, the river, sacred traditions and importantly about the Indigenous community’s solidarity.

“We are all one family. We are the river people and we all respect one another and are there for one another,” he said.

“And the biggest thing about it, we still work together as one team in country today.
“The artwork is about Mungo and its 55,000-year history and the whole indigenous family coming together with the story of our culture, the foot tracks in the sand dunes and the dust and sand that still blows today.
“This is the story that we pass onto our kids and through our schools that I visit and share the stories.”

Sharon said that actually seeing the artwork installed on the foyer’s ceiling was amazing.

“To see it in place is beautiful,” she said.

MBPH board chair Mary Rydberg said that the board has been focused on building strong community partnerships and one of these relationships that is so important to us, is the Aboriginal community.

“Our collaboration with MDAS will further strengthen our relationships with the Aboriginal community,” Ms Rydberg said.