Learn about how the NAIDOC mural developed from a yarn to reality, with many layers making the project special and significant.
Collaboration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, students and allies across Murdoch University created an opportunity to invite acclaimed Noongar artist Jarni McGuire to paint a large-scale wall mural to represent Murdoch’s rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, heritage and history.
The mural, named Koomba Yaakiny (big standing), came to life during NAIDOC week as McGuire painted the roughly 2.5m x 6m long artwork in the University’s central Bush Court precinct.
Pro Vice Chancellor Aboriginal Education and Leadership, Chanelle van den Berg, said this project is an example of allyship in action with each person involved living up to the NAIDOC Week theme ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’.
“This project has created a unique opportunity for cross-university collaboration whilst simultaneously increasing student engagement on campus throughout NAIDOC Week,” she said.
Her art is a celebration of traditional stories and culture, and she is committed to using her creative practice as a platform to share her culture with the wider community.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and student consultation
To help compose her design, McGuire consulted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and students during National Reconciliation Week to hear their stories and find out what they wanted the mural to portray.
Following a brilliant creative workshop with Murdoch’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and students, I was able to bring their stories, our history and culture to life.” Jarni McGuire
“Gaining an insight from these key people was an extremely important step for this artwork.”
“The consultation was very informal, it was simply a group gathering of Murdoch University and Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre community members having a yarn,” Kulbardi student Shaun Garlett said.
“There were several key aspects that I wanted the mural to involve.
“Firstly, [the mural should be] created with the involvement of the wider community.
“Secondly, I valued [having] an original piece that would be an icon for Indigenous students at Murdoch University,” he said.
Garlett said consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and students is a common and respectful action, as it amplifies their voice and provides an opportunity to give input.
Knowing that we all have had an input into the mural creates a better environment for everyone and a sense of connection to places." Shaun Garlett, Kulbardi student
The consultation inspired the main themes for McGuire’s artwork: the importance of truth telling; and acknowledging past injustices.
The piece also highlights the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, exemplified by the success and leadership of Murdoch University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, both staff and students.
Garlett said the consultation was a great experience and he found it interesting to hear how his vision differed from others. He said he learnt what each person was passionate about and believes the finished mural captures his vision.
The mural’s outcome is fantastic, it’s a unique design that incorporated ideas from the consultation group. I believe that it will become a centrepiece at Murdoch University." Shaun Garlett, Kulbardi student
Supporting Indigenous businesses
The mural project was significant for a number of reasons, one being that Murdoch University was able to support an Indigenous creative business to create something beautiful.
McGuire founded Jarni Creative in 2020 and said it’s important for young Aboriginal people to see representation of Aboriginal businesses and leaders in our communities and media.
“There’s that whole notion of if you can’t see it, how can you be it?” she told The West Australian recently.
Murdoch University Pro Vice Chancellor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership, Chanelle van den Berg, said encouraging young Aboriginal people to see themselves as leaders was important.
“Anything we can do to help young Aboriginal people to see themselves as entrepreneurs is really important, and the more initiatives, the better the outcome will be,” she said.
Title: Koomba Yaakiny (Noongar for ‘big standing’)
Artist: Jarni McGuire (30), Whadjuk, Ballardong and Yued yorga.
Lives and works: Boorloo (Perth), Australia
Artist Statement: “I wanted this mural to celebrate the power, strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Truth-telling of our history and acknowledging our struggles and what we continue to face is imperative for a positive future for all.
“Self-determination, education and culture are ours, we are the author of our destinies, and we hold that power within us through our boodja. We always have, and we always will.”