For Gamilaraay man, Yuwaalaraay cultural educator and renowned Aboriginal artist Darryl Ferguson, the NAIDOC Week theme for 2021, ‘Heal Country’, is all about “being on country” and “connecting with country.”
GrainCorp has partnered with Darryl, who works at GrainCorp’s Walgett site, to bring together local Aboriginal youth from the Walgett PCYC in Northern NSW, to paint a series of murals for display at operational sites across the Walgett Shire region.
“Painting is an important part of Aboriginal culture and one that must be passed down to younger generations,” Darryl said.
“Teaching the youth and engaging them through art is one of the ways we come together and connect with country.
“Ultimately, that’s where healing country comes from.”
Darryl is a prominent local figure in the Walgett region, who works with schools, police, government departments and councils to pass on local Aboriginal art and cultural knowledge.
Darryl will guide local Aboriginal children in painting five murals that, when placed together, show a traditional Aboriginal map of the country GrainCorp’s sites are on.
The murals will be erected at GrainCorp’s sites in Walgett, Cryon, Burren Junction, Merrywinebone and Merah North, for travellers to view at the front gates.
Darryl devised the design for the murals and says they will be an extension of each other to invoke “connectedness with country.”
“The blackness in the design represents the Gamilaroi people and the black soil; the long lines are the rivers and creeks; the short lines are the gullies and low-lying country; and the sitting symbols are the GrainCorp sites.
The mural that will be painted first will be at GrainCorp’s site at Walgett, which is home to 1500 people, of which approximately half identify as Aboriginal.
GrainCorp Community Engagement Manager Kyle Docherty said the murals will signal GrainCorp’s strong connections to the local region.
“GrainCorp plays a key role in the Walgett Shire as a major employer in the region,” he said.
“The region is home to a large Aboriginal population, so it’s important to us that we foster our connections with the youth of the community and provide education and employment opportunities where we can.
“This project is a fantastic opportunity to amplify this year’s theme of Heal Country well beyond the events of NAIDOC Week, and to bring young people together to celebrate our First Nation’s people’s history and culture.”