Emma Bamblett is one of several artists who are creating beautiful, culturally important murals to help revitalise Reservoir.
For artist Emma Bamblett, every blank wall is a canvas bursting with possibility.
'I drive around Melbourne thinking that there should be a policy of assigning walls to local artists,' she said.
A Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Ngadjonji and Taungurung Woman, Emma sees mural art as a way to welcome Country into urban settings.
'Murals are a great way to tell a story and provide cultural markers that you don't always get in suburban areas,' she said.
'They're also a great format for sharing a message, because locals don't have to pay or travel to see them,' she added.
Emma's passion and vision for mural art made her a natural fit for Reservoir Neighbourhood House’s Colour My Neighbourhood Program, backed by the Victorian Government.
Colour My Neighbourhood engaged local artists who had lost work because of the pandemic, commissioning them to create murals at the East Reservoir public housing estate.
The project saw the creation of 6 murals, with all designs based on input from the housing residents.
The community feedback and co-design sessions, which took place during barbecues organised by Your Community Health and local service providers, were also used as an opportunity to provide health support and referrals for residents.
Not only that, but residents were also able to use the sessions to raise awareness for maintenance requests, which were then actioned by the Victorian Government’s Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.
Supported by nearly $250,000 from the Government's Suburban Revitalisation Program, Colour My Neighbourhood is one of many projects seeking to revitalise Reservoir.
Emma’s mural, telling the story of the 7 seasons of the Eastern Kulin seasonal calendar, was the final piece completed through the program.
‘One of the residents was very passionate about her identity and connection to the Stolen Generation,’ said Emma.
‘So, I decided to represent her journey with the native hibiscus flower.’
‘Then, based on feedback from other residents, I started to see images of animals, nature and the weather come up,’ she added.
Emma decided to unite these ideas under a single theme, and the 7 seasons mural was born.
‘I thought it was a great way to cover all their feedback.’
‘The mural can also educate people about the Aboriginal concept of the seasons, which is different from the western concept,’ said Emma.
The Eastern Kulin seasonal calendar is not divided into spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Instead, it is divided into:
- luk Eel Season (March)
- Waring Wombat Season (April to July)
- Guling Orchid Season (August)
- Poorneet Tadpole Season (September to October)
- Buath Gurru Grass Flowering Season (November)
- Kangaroo-apple Season (December)
- Biderap Dry Season (January to February).
These seasons are represented in Emma’s mural through colours, images and symbols.
There is Bunjil, the Wurundjeri Creator Spirit, kangaroo apples, luk eels, hibiscus flowers, symbols for grass and the sun, and more.
As the eye travels across the mural, the colours change, representing the changing seasons.
Grounding the piece in the centre is a large gum tree created by artist Indigo O'Rourke.
'Her beautiful tree tied it all in,' said Emma.
'My symbols are bold and bright, then her image brings you back into the history, the importance and the sacred role of trees.'
'The tree provides a strong sense of past and present,' she added.
With the mural complete and receiving positive feedback from local residents, Emma hopes it will create a sense of pride and improve cultural safety for those living in the area.
'Murals are similar to the Aboriginal flag, which is a symbol and sign of safety and respect,' she said.
'You'll see Mob recognise those symbols, and they'll feel safer in that area,' she added.
Emma, who alongside artist Megan Van Den Berg recently opened Kinya Lerrk & Co, the first all-Aboriginal arts and homewares store in Preston, is also enthusiastic about the benefits of projects like Colour My Neighbourhood for artists.
'Projects like this support artists who did it hard over lockdown, and are still doing it hard now,' she said.
'It meant we could share our stories, and create work that makes people feel happy, safe and proud of the place they call home.'
Colour My Neighbourhood was supported by the Reservoir Suburban Revitalisation Board, in partnership with Reservoir Neighbourhood House, Your Community Health and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.