North Gardens Aboriginal sculpture park gets educational stone circle by Ballarat artist Deanne Gilson

Local artist Deanne Gilson will tell the story of her Wadawurrung ancestors through a public sculpture at the North Gardens wetlands.
Local artist Deanne Gilson will tell the story of her Wadawurrung ancestors through a public sculpture at the North Gardens wetlands.

The first artist for the North Gardens Aboriginal sculpture park has been announced, as NAIDOC Week comes to a close. 

Proud Wathaurung woman and Ballarat resident Deanne Gilson had her design – a ceremonial basalt rock circle covered in Aboriginal symbols – chosen by City of Ballarat’s public art committee. 

Now completing her PhD in Aboriginal women’s business, Ms Gilson said only hours before the art submission deadline, she had a bolt of inspiration and began drawing.

Many of the symbols set into the stones will represent a broader Aboriginal story relevant to the region – like that of Koonwarra, the black swan and Kulin nation totems Bunjil the Eagle and Waa the Crow. 

“My ancestors they actually used to create stone circles and they were actually based in Aboriginal cosmology, the stars, the seasons,” Ms Gilson said. “I thought the stones would make a great ceremonial place … In the mid 1800s there was a corroboree near Loreto College of all Kulin mobs, and this is in a sense bring back that situation.

“Eventually there will be sculptures from all the Kulin nations up there, so every family will be represented and it will be a great education tool.”

NAIDOC Week celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture each July, with this year’s theme ‘Because of Her, We Can’ about recognising women.

A freelance art teacher, Ms Gilson said her academic art and research would result in ten large shields painted with symbols, depicting the strength and protection of Aboriginal women. 

“There was so much trauma, with children taken away and the Stolen Generation, so the art for my PhD is very intense … each symbol contains all the knowledge of the past, present and future.”

Ms Gilson said she hoped the new sculpture would provide a “place of peace” for tourists and locals alike. 

“Stones are used in all cultures for memorials and reflection. They say stone retains memories, so it’s just supposed to be a place of calm and peace.”

The artwork is scheduled for installation in early 2019.