City of Perth Wellington Square artwork beacon for Stolen Generations

A significant public artwork acknowledging the Stolen Generations has officially opened in Wellington Square.

Created by artist Sandra Hill – Elder and Custodian of the Wadandi (salt water) people – Mia Mias is a dedicated place of healing in the north-west corner of the square.

The artwork features a central beacon incorporating the male and female feathers of the red-tailed black cockatoo (Kaarak), surrounded by five traditional dwellings (mia mias).

To finalise the work, the footprints of Sandra’s grandchildren were cemented into the concrete.

“The City of Perth is proud to see this significant artwork come to fruition after careful consultation with Western Australia’s Aboriginal community,” City of Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said.

“Wellington Square represents cultural and spiritual significance for Nyoongar people, linking the past and the present and we couldn’t more delighted to see this artwork tell a powerful and poignant story for all members of the community.”

Artist Sandra Hill said as member of the Stolen Generations, she understood the grief, loss and heartbreak the community continued to experience.

“I understand what it’s like to survive that experience and the things that you hold forever in your heart. I understand what needs to be said through art,” she said.

“The feathers represent the girls and boys that were taken and portrays collective pain and collective loss. They’ve been a part of our symbolism for a long, long time and I couldn’t think of a better way to recognise those stolen children than with these feathers. When it lights up, it acts as a beacon to help them find their way home.

“My whole public art career has been moving towards this moment in time. The whole meaning is about bringing them home. This is the most important work that I have ever done over the last 30 years.”

The City of Perth worked closely with Yokai, Bringing Them Home Committee WA and the broader Aboriginal community to commission this important public artwork.

Western Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation (WASGAC) Chair Jim Morrison said Wellington Square held cultural significance for Whadjuk Nyoongar people, who lived there for many thousands of years when the site was part of a wetlands system.

“The relationship Aboriginal peoples have with Wellington Square today is one of identity. It is considered a safe meeting place, with many spiritual links and memories. Since 2006, Sorry Day celebrations have taken place at this site,” he said.

“The memorial will add to the site and give another perspective from a Stolen Generations artist’s point of view. We are portraying what is truthful. It isn’t taught in schools and isn’t part of the curriculum, so this is why it is important.

“For us, it is unfinished business, it is taking up the challenge and looking at ways to heal the traumas of the many people that have been affected by the Stolen Generations movement.”

The area will now be used as an educational, ceremonial and gathering place for the community at events such as Sorry Day.

The City of Perth worked with Barking Wolf to put together a 15-minute documentary on the story of Mia Mias – the Wellington Square Stolen Generations Artwork.

To view it, please click here: https://vimeo.com/620429138

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