A ‘Peace and Harmony’ road mural in Noble Park is giving the local Ukrainian community a renewed sense of national identity and unity.
For more than 60 years Ukrainians have played an important role in the rich multiculturalism of Noble Park. Now there is a significant mural recognizing their culture and strong connection to the community.
‘No one knows this better than Liana Slipetsky. Liana is the President of the Noble Park Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Victoria, a role her grandfather also held some 25 years prior.
‘The mural is a permanent acknowledgement of the strong history of Ukrainian presence in Melbourne's south-east.’ Liana explained.
After World War II, to pay for their passage to Australia, Ukrainian immigrants worked on local infrastructure projects around Victoria. Many built their homes in Melbourne’s south east, forming a vibrant community. Noble Park was particularly popular. At one point you could mistake Knox Street for a small Ukrainian village.
Liana was born in Australia to Ukrainian parents and raised by her grandparents.
‘A lot of people of my generation inherited our love for Ukraine from our parents and grandparents. It is very important to them to preserve the native language, so we grew up only speaking Ukrainian,’ said Liana.
Her grandparents immigrated to Australia in the 1950s and became pivotal figures in the Noble Park community. Liana’s grandfather was the President of the Association for over 25 years and her grandmother was the school principal of the Ukrainian Community School for 50 years, from when it opened in 1954.
By 1965, the Ukrainian community was growing rapidly in Noble Park, so the Association built their Ukrainian Community Centre on Chandler Road. To this day, it continues to be a valued hub where Ukrainians can connect with each other, learn and speak their language, and celebrate important holidays and cultural events.
‘The Ukrainian community are made up of post-World War II migrants, 2nd and 3rd generations born in Australia, Ukrainian migrants from 1991 after the declaration of Ukraine’s Independence, and those fleeing Bosnia. But we have shifted our focus over the last decade to be more inclusive,’ said Liana.
‘When the Association first began in Noble Park, they were quite insular. When they held events, it was all about Ukrainians, and Ukrainians connecting with Ukrainians. These days, we have such a multicultural society, and we're no longer an emerging community. We're an established community.
’You don’t have to be of Ukrainian descent to become a member. Our connection, especially to Noble Park has deep roots and we want everyone to be involved.’
‘Noble Park holds a special place in many Ukrainian hearts,‘ Liana said. ‘It’s where it all began - where people went to Ukrainian Saturday School and later sent their children. It’s where they learnt about their culture, language and traditions.
The ‘Peace and Harmony’ Road mural is now a physical symbol of connection to the Ukrainian homeland in the heart of Noble Park.’
The design of the mural reflects strong Ukrainian heritage featuring Vyshyvanka design, Liana explained.
‘There is a lot of street artwork in Ukraine like this, so it’s a powerful reminder of our culture.
‘Vyshyvanka is Ukrainian embroidery. It is the central feature of Ukraine’s national clothing. Traditionally, clothing featuring vyshyvanka is worn by both men and women in Ukrainian villages, with very specific regional differences.’
Now, in the face of renewed aggression from its neighbour, the design has become a symbol of national identity and unity.
The blue and yellow colours, reflected in Ukraine's flag, represent the country's role as Europe's breadbasket. Blue denotes the skies over the vast land, while yellow stands for the grain growing in the huge wheatfields beneath.
The Peace and Harmony road mural project was delivered in 2 phases thanks to the City of Greater Dandenong, who contributed a total of $7,500 in funding, together with $37,000 in funding from the Noble Park Suburban Revitalisation program.