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A Permanent Welcome to Esperance

A Permanent Welcome to Esperance

Regional Arts WA

This story was submitted by Esperance Community Arts. We love sharing stories from the regional arts sector. If you want to find out how to submit your own stories, take a look at the submit your story page. We can’t wait to hear from you!


From a suggestion made by a member of their Aboriginal Advisory Group two years prior, Esperance Community Arts, in partnership with Seawater Families, Escare Incorporated and with the support of Esperance Tjlatjraak Native Title Aboriginal Coproation (ETNTAC),  embarked on a project that would invite professional mural artist Matt Adnate to paint a portrait of an influential Nyungar Elder.

With the help of ETNTAC, the six Nyungar families of Traditional Owners were consulted about the mural content. The decision was made, with unanimous support, that a portrait of the late Mr. Tom Bullen, a highly respected Elder and the lead applicant on the local Native Title claim, should be the focus for Adnate’s mural.

The mural, entitled “Wanju Kepa Kurl Boodja” (Welcome to Esperance Country), constitutes a permanent Welcome to Country on the community’s Esplanade.

Matt Adnate works on the mural of the late Elder Tom Bullen. Picture by Jane Mulcock.

Three local Nyungar artists, Tjubrin Valma Schultz, Atheleen Thomas, and Nannapa Jennell Reynolds were also contracted as part of this project to design and paint three additional murals. Two of these, Dolphins and Family’s Journey, are located on a prominent wall on Dempster Street and the third, Leafy Sea Dragon Dreaming, is on the wall of the Bay of Isles Leisure Centre.

The project created professional development opportunities for senior local artists Atheleen Thomas, Valma Schultz,and Jennell Reynolds. Matt Adnate and Jennell Reynolds also ran free mural design workshops for over 100 children and young people as part of the project, expanding the audience for the murals by teaching knowledge of, and raising awareness and interest in Nyungar culture.

Many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community members came to watch as the murals  were painted, creating opportunities for conversation and connection throughout the community. Separate community launch events were also held at each of the mural locaitons. The feedback from the project has been overwhelmingly positive, with a number of local organisations asking for additional murals to be created. A story about the Wanju Nyungar Boodja Mural Project also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Matt Adnate leads a community mural workshop. Picture by Jane Mulcock.

In Ocotber 2019  the impact of the mural project was further acknowleged with Esperance Community Arts and Escare Incorporated receiving the inaugural Linkwest Carmen Lawrence Award for Community Building for their Indigenous Arts & Culture partnership program which has been running over 4 years.

Esperance Community Arts secured Federal funding for the Wanju Nyungar Boodja Mural Project in 2018 through the Indigenous Arts and Languages Program and the Regional Arts Fund.

Esperance Community Arts receives core funding from Regional Arts WA, supported by the State Government of WA through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and Lotterywest.

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