Indigenous art walk brings culture to Sydney streets

Sydney’s inner west has been scattered with artworks from First Nations artists thanks to a collaboration between Copyright Agency and Downer, NBN Co’s delivery partner.

With Copyright Agency sourcing and licensing 22 artworks to be wrapped around NBN network nodes, the project’s main aim was to build genuine connection in the community and promote First Nations artists.

Wiradjuri and Wongaibon artist, Graham Toomey has two of his artworks featured in the project.

Mr Toomey said he was happy to get involved with the project after Copyright Agency reached out to him to participate.

“The way that I saw this opportunity [was that it] might enable me to share my culture with Australia,” Mr Toomey said.

For Mr Toomey, his art is about sharing culture, stories, values and beliefs.

“The more that I do art, the more that I can educate non-Aboriginal people [and] try to connect them to the culture.”

One of Mr Toomey’s featured works, Ocean Dreaming, came from a moment of reflection along the beaches of Maroubra.

“Living on saltwater country I’m always drawn to the ocean, always drawn to the beach. I’m always drawn to reflect about our ancestors and how they lived prior to 1788.”

“One day I was there and walking into the ocean, visualising the life that lives underneath the ocean and trying to reflect on how saltwater people lived with the ocean and how they had a unique and balanced life together,” Mr Toomey said.

“I visualised these people in their canoes out on the water fishing … living and playing around the ocean.”

With artworks across St Peters, Alexandria, Erskineville and Newtown, an Indigenous art street walk has been created to allow people to see each of the works throughout the inner west.

Mr Toomey said increasing the accessibility of Indigenous art is a positive way of trying to bring community together.

“A lot of non-Aboriginal Australians respect our art, love our art [but] don’t know much about it,” Mr Toomey said.

“The more that we can share that and show that in the streets, in galleries, in publications … the more that people can try to understand our art, our culture and our people.”

The Wiradjuri and Wongaibon artist also said licensing and royalties for Indigenous art is essential and that working with Copyright Agency has been a positive experience.

“We’ve been exploited for 230-odd years … people have used our culture for the wrong reasons, whether that’s art or stories or our sacred places,” Mr Toomey said.

“Copyright Agency has been really professional [and] really respectful in doing this project and the process behind it.”

Mr Toomey said other organisations and governments could follow and learn from the example set by Copyright Agency.

Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling said this project is an example of copyright licensing at its very best.

“We are very proud to have negotiated the licences for the 22 artworks that are appearing on the NBN network nodes across Sydney’s inner west. The result is a street walk of Indigenous art that residents and visitors can enjoy,” Mr Suckling said.

“The licences negotiated by the Copyright Agency ensure the integrity of the artworks through the reproduction process, a payment to the artists, and clear attribution of the work on each cabinet … it respects the artists’ rights and the stories they share through their work.”

Downer’s General Manager, Luke Rowlands said Downer was proud to partner with Indigenous artists in this project.

“This is partnership helps to tie Australia’s important and proud history to its exciting future through the NBN,” Mr Rowlands said.

NBN Co echoed similar sentiments, saying the initiative shows great collaboration between the community and project partners.

“It provides a chance for local artists and First People’s communities to showcase their works, while promoting a healthy community relationship and enhancing the local streetscape,” said NBN Co’s Chief Network Deployment Officer, Kathrine Dyer.

By Hannah Cross

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