University of Canberra: New Aboriginal artwork on UC campus reflects underground springs and waterways

A breathtaking piece of Aboriginal art has been unveiled on one of the Ngunnawal Centre pillars at the University of Canberra today.

The artwork, painted by local Ngunnawal artist Richie Allan, depicts the natural waterways, underground springs and the land on which the University campus is built.

Mr Allan said he hopes the artwork can be enjoyed by generations of students at the University.

“This artwork is a story of what used to be here – a university long before it was a Western university – where people gathered for education about the plants and animals,” Mr Allan said in his speech at the unveiling event.

“That education thrived for over 100,000 years and will continue to thrive through the Ngunnawal Centre and the extended faculties that our people continue to come here for.”

The unveiling event was attended by staff, students and alumni at the Centre, and began with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony.

The artwork was the second of the Ngunnawal Centre pillars to be painted, following Aunty Jenni Martiniello’s piece in 2021.

Both pieces feature vibrant colours connected to the flora and fauna of Ngunnawal Country. Mr Allan said he used a variety of colours in order to make the piece stand out.

“There are thriving colours of purples and pinks to oranges, that come from the beautiful gardens that surround us and provide bush medicine and healing,” he said.

“That’s what our people used for hundreds of thousands of years and will continue to do – and it’s to connect the viewer to footprints like this, to colours like this, and to stories like this.

“If you call yourself an Australian, this culture is your history.”

Manager of the Ngunnawal Centre Josh Pryor said the artwork provides the Centre with an even stronger connection to Ngunnawal land.

“We’re named the Ngunnawal Centre – but this connects us even more with the Ngunnawal land and the Ngunnawal stories, which are tens of thousands of years old,” he said.

“We hope everyone – not just users of the Centre – can appreciate this beautiful art and the stories behind it.”

It was a message echoed by Mr Allan.

“Life is a journey created through mother earth and this is the story of the University of Canberra, from the stories of the Ngunnawal people,” he said.

“Always was, and always will be, Ngunnawal Country.”