Strong women rangers speak through new mural

10 November 2019

It’s been described as a message stick that carries the story of women working for healthy country across the Northern Territory.

‘Gundung’ is a work of five panels that depicts the elements of life - night, earth, water, fire and sun - and represents the driving forces for women who work in land and sea management.

The 6m x 2m five-panel mural was created at the Northern Territory Women’s Healthy Country Forum held at Bawurrbarnda outstation in central Arnhem Land in September.

The three day forum involved more than 130 women uniting to develop a road map to establish a network for women supporting healthy country activities across the Indigenous Land and Sea Management sector.

It’s the first of its kind in the Territory.

Mural co-facilitators Mimal artist Shantelle Miller and Gamilaraay artist Karla McGrady worked with the group.

Karla Grady said the group decided to capture important cultural themes, ideas and issues discussed at the forum in the form of a painting.

“The painting is beyond what any of us could have imagined,” Ms McGrady said.

“The women really connected with the process and we now have a powerful visual record of the incredible intellectual and emotional work that took place over those few days at Bawurrbarnda.

“The breakaway art space became an area where conversations took place about the wellbeing of future generations, how to protect language and culture, a space to share and connect stories and significance of country.”

The network has been developed at the request of Aboriginal women who wanted a group to stand together, share a collective vision, and to strengthen and empower their own roles and voices in working for healthy country.

It take a ground-up approach led by Aboriginal women driving their own solutions to change.

The forum at Bawurrbanda provided a platform for women to share their advantages and challenges living and working in the most remote parts of the country.

Many women expressed the importance of being connected and of having a space to gather strength and clarity through shared experience.

The network is being developed with traditional indigenous governance at its core.

Dalabon and Rembarrnga elder and forum facilitator Annette Miller says senior Aboriginal women will have authority over how it operates, its objectives and the way the network will run.

“We want our young girls to know that we are working together to make things better for them in the future,” Ms Murray said.

“We are strongest when we work together.

“And like our culture and stories, that painting shows how we’re connected and what is most important to us.”

Mimal women are travelling from central Arnhem Land this week to present the mural at the Territory Natural Resource Management Conference being held at the Darwin Convention Centre on the 13th -14th November.