Wiradjuri Ceramic Mural
Amanda Gay, Rachelle Mascini, Chris Helyar, David O’Neill and youth from the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre | 2003
Handmade ceramic tiles and concrete
Wagga Wagga Civic Precinct, exterior wall between the E3 art space and Library, overlooking Wollundry Lagoon

Public Art Audio Trail

Episode 6: Wiradjuri Ceramic Mural

Audio visual description:

Acknowledgement spoken by Bernard Higgins.
Narration, content and interview by Ashleigh Adams.
Sound and music by Sam Webber Sound.

Public Art Audio Trail - Episode 6 Transcript - Wiradjuri Ceramic Mural

Light guitar plays.

As we come to the end of the audio trail the Wiradjuri ceramic mural welcomes us back to the Wollundry Lagoon. The design for this mural was created through a collaboration between Amanda Gay, Rachelle Mascini, Chris Helyar and David O’Neill with several talented young artists from the Juvenile Justice Centre. It was installed in 2003.

Uncle James Ingram is a proud Wiradjuri elder and passionate story-teller, he will now share with us the stories of this place and artwork:

Guitar fades out.

Narrator: This mural is of course located opposite the Wollundry Lagoon, can you tell me a bit about the significance of this place?

Uncle James Ingram: First of all, Yiradhu Marang ngawa baladhu yuwin ngadhi James Ingram. Wollundry Lagoon is a declared Aboriginal place, there are nine declared Aboriginal places around here, two of them are outside of the Wagga City boundary, but the thing is that Wagga Wagga actually means place of many celebrations, come here and dance Wagadyi Wagadyi right and the reason why people come here to dance and celebrate is because we have many lagoons, it’s not only Wollundry Lagoon that we have but we also have Parkan Pregan and Kurrajong and Bomen and Flowerdale. So, the reason why people come here to Wagga is when we’re traditionally following the Bogong Moth, when lots and lots of people from southern plains Wiradjuri and northern plains Wiradjuri come here for Wagga for celebrations ceremonial business on our way to Canberra, to meet up with the Gundungurran and the Eora and the Gadigal people and the Yuin Nation for the exchange of family, so that we didn’t have you know marriages that were too close, we always had to have you know marriages that were far enough apart so that it wouldn’t lead to illness and those sort of things. But when people, large volumes of people and you are talking of tens of thousands of people coming here to Wagga, you’ve gotta have a place to feed so more traditional times when floods would come through, we would let all the small fish and small water creatures go into the lagoons and then we would block them off and then we would then have a large supermarket at our disposal full of fish and yabbies and lobsters and ducks and geese and eggs and all those wonderful things we need to eat to sustain ourselves on our journey to Canberra.

We also have a very significant rock that comes up on the Murrumbidgee River and its volcanic rock and it was brought here by the volcano’s millions of years ago and a stream come up on the Murrumbidgee River and people know it here in Wagga as a place of stones. To us it’s called Walang when you have black rock that’s only thing that’s harder than that black rock is probably your diamonds, so people would also be coming to Wagga Wagga to trade that black rock as well. You go to Tumut, you will see the black rock that is in the river system over there and they’re very smooth black rocks that are good for not only for cooking but when you split them open they they make a really good knifes edge or a spear tip and so forth so that’s what’s Walang is all about, so this place of stone is called Walang and Wollundry is  Walang Walang Wollundry Lagoon, so that’s where it gets its name from. So, its highly significant area for us and all the sand hills that surround Wollundry are also known burial sites to the Wiradjuri. You now have the Court House, the Police Station, the churches and Wollundry towers and all these other places built on top of those sand hills, but I don’t think anybody is going to allow us to you know excavate those areas but those graves are protected for more time I guess now but so it’s not only access of food source for us but also part of our ceremonial business and our burial sites for our people so that’s why it was declared an Aboriginal Place just like the other areas around Wagga. The other six areas were declared Aboriginal Places. We’ve got a few more to do like Wagga Beach and Lake Albert and Silverlite Reserve and Galore Hill and Lake Urana.

Narrator: This mural is so rich with imagery from historical events and the present day, are there any parts of this design that particularly stand out to you?

Uncle James Ingram: Yeah, well it all stands out for me. There’s a frilled neck lizard that talks and it was included because I asked them to included it because my totem is the frilled neck lizard from and I’m from Ngarrangdera Ngurrungera Country which is Narrandera, Leeton and Griffith, and parts of Darlington Point so and he’s a when he’s in the red dirt he’s red and when he’s in yellow box tree he’s yellow and when he’s in the black butt trees he’s black, it just happens to be the colour on my flag but the thing is about the Ngurrungera mob is that we’re chameleons we’re not be trusted. Then there are the depictions and so on of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost and there they take the form of Baayami our god and then we’ve also got Pleiades in there that’s the seven sisters and seven sisters watch over me and when one sister dies, another one dies and but they reckon when the last sister dies in Katoomba when she falls that’s when Armageddon, so it comes back to the theme of what’s you know in our bible and what’s in our stories. Baayami is Orion in the sky, so we’ve been trying to teach people how to read, do farming practices and other things about the sky, we are hoping to bring the Wiradjuri Sky project to Wagga one day and show people our different constellations for our different animals and birds. There’s also depictional about the first boat people that ever arrived here in 1970 ur 1788 and yeah there’s also the turtle which is the directional finder, if you know how to read maps, there our original maps that you get up on your iphone these days, it shows you how long the distance you’ve got to go and where you’ve got to turn, that’s why the turtles there. And the Biladurang which is the one of our wonderful creations from the duck marrying a rat and yeah so everyone loves him. But also there’s also the Wawi is in the story Wawi is our rainbow serpent as you all now when we do get rain, water creates new roads and you know new life is born so the rainbow serpent the Wawi is very important to us, so yeah we had the Brolga there which reminds us about love and you know people being together that’s their story, that’s always good to hear. The Brolga over in Leeton where I come from, we have the swamps over there that we have many birds, the brolga but it’s a good story about love and marriage and so forth.

The murals very very special to us, there were many community members around at the time that were approached about the space and we joined together with a few artists around the place, and the boys from Juvenile Justice and you can see their signatures down there on the mural with the handprints that identifies them for themselves later on when they come back to the mural. The mural has many many cultural values for Wiradjuri way of life that we led, more importantly that some of this of information that’s on the mural comes from Charles Sturt’s diaries and then books his book he wrote about Wiradjuri that were here at Wagga Beach when he came upon us and we were there by the thousands. One of the things that he wrote in his diary was a description of the Wiradjuri people and the Wiradjuri man in particular, and he described Wiradjuri men as being 7foot tall, fit as mallee bulls and the most handsome men he had ever seen in his life and that’s depicted in the size of the Wiradjuri man in the mural and then there’s also a portrait of Albert Namatjira and we asked the young people why would you want to put a painting of Albert Namatjira on our mural and they said well Albert Namatjira paintings hang in the great galleries of the world in Buckingham Palace and all these places and Albert passed away penniless and without you know some say that he was in a prison cell as well, so they were saying that if that could happen to a really famous First Nations person what hope have we got going from a Juvenile Justice Centre to you know the big house, so that’s why they had that depicted there. On the murals there are things like the broken spears and oars and the story goes that more were seen hunting a mighty roo or paddling down the bidgee in a little bark canoe and that what signifies all the crosses signified black deaths in custody and the crosses up on top of the mural with the spiritual beings it’s about the boys having you know having two bob each way. you know if you believe in Baayami which is our god then you believe the in the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, you’ve got to take into consideration both you know is the bible right or is you know these stories the First Nations people have about their creator all throughout the world similar to what’s in the bible.

Narrator: Why is First Nations public art so important?

Uncles James Ingram: Well I’ve been in Wagga Wagga since 1980 on and off and I’ve run into two very powerful Wiradjuri women by the name of Vonney Gilchrist and Violet Honeysett and one of the main things they said to me is that we had to leave messages for not only our own people but all people who come to visit Wagga and live in Wagga about who we are the Wiradjuri, the great nation of Wiradjuri and that’s why all this public art that you see around the place, that I’ve been involved in, it’s never been graffitied because people get to take it in and they see it and they understand about the Wiradjuri and it’s not only this the art work around the lagoon there’s other artworks that we have been involved in and will continue to be involved in with Wagga City Council to leave our message about who we are the Wiradjuri and I think when you look at some of the work that we’ve already done it’s a lot of people said they really didn’t understand about Wiradjuri but when they’re told about it and the artworks are explained, they think that how could I be so blind to see what you know Wiradjuri is trying to say to us so that’s why it’s very very important plus I would like to honor those women by continuing to help Wagga City Council has really good artwork out there.

Light guitar plays through to the end of the episode.

The Wollundry Lagoon is home to many wonderful public artworks, so take you time exploring the precinct. Don’t forget to look high and low as some of them are hiding in unlikeliest of places.

These are just some of the many public artworks that can be found throughout the Wagga Wagga CBD and suburbs that are part of the Wagga Wagga City Council Public Art Collection.

In this precinct you will also find the Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Wagga Wagga City Library and Museum of the Riverina, ready to be explored.

We hope you have enjoyed discovering a part of the collection that celebrates Wagga Wagga and brings our public spaces to life.

This podcast is produced by Wagga Wagga City Council and made possible through the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, which supports the arts in regional and remote Australia.

Visual Description

Wiradjuri Ceramic Mural

This is a large Aboriginal artwork made from ceramic tiles with details etched into the surface of the tiles. The artwork is approximately 5m wide and 1.5m tall and is attached to the side of a building. The word “Wiradjuri” features on a white boomerang in the middle of the picture in line with the body of a snake. The artwork is finely detailed in varying shades of brown, blue, black and white with numerous images and symbols.

In the left upper corner, with a blue background are symbols of spirits, birds, clapping sticks and a boomerang and eleven dot painting circles in tan and brown. Below it is a simple map outlining Wiradjuri Country. To the right of the map is an Aboriginal man wearing a red headband and a red loin cloth, and beside him is a grey flag dotted with numerous crosses.

Lower down on the left edge is an elderly man holding a brush wearing an Akubra hat and a long sleeved blue shirt, facing out to the left of the mural. Below the men are 34 black and white handprints.

The upper right side of the mural shows three sailing ships on the sea, turtles, a platypus and the trunks of silver gum trees.

The lower right section features a body of water with a large turtle swimming, surrounded by other turtles, yabbies, fish and water plants.

Throughout the artwork are land and water elements interwoven with a variety of animals. Snakes, a frill necked lizard with its mouth wide open and its neck frill extended; echidnas, two kangaroos with zig zag patterned snakes painted along their backbone and tail; a pelican standing beside four eggs; a dragonfly, a frog and almost hidden in the centre of the artwork is an emu.

Explore the Trail

This artwork is a part of the Public Art Audio Trail, follow the link below to see all the artworks on the trail.

See all artworks

About the Artwork

The 5m x 1.5m ceramic mural depicts the Murrumbidgee River and the history of the Wiradjuri people. It contains many stories dealing with issues of triumph, dissent, elation and depair.

The presence of the Murrumbidgee River, a giver of life so important to the human existence, is depicted weaving tis way through the natural flora and fauna illustrated. This celebrates the relationship between the Aboriginal people and the land.

An image of the First Fleet marks the coming of European people and the beginning of white settlement and changes to come.

The size of the traditional Wiradjuri warrior reflects his strength and spirit and his significance to the local people as he led the resistance against European settlement. The crosses and ascending spirits represent the eats of both Aboriginal and European people involved in the hostilities.

The contemporary Aboriginal flag and the yellow map detailing the Wiradjuri Nation symbolise the linking of the past with the present.

A coming to ‘understanding’ is reflected in the contemplation of the contemporary Wiradjuri man as he looks towards the future.

This mural was created with the strength and spirit of the Wiradjuri people and took all involved on a journey of discovery about who they are, their values, and their attitudes to Aboriginal people and culture.


Amanda Gay, Rachelle Mascini, Chris Helyar, David O’Neill, youth from the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre – Chris, Dennis, Trevor, Russell, Jeff, Barry, Steven, Lawrence, Shane and Greg.

Cultural Advisors

Yvonne Gilchrist, Eddie Kneebone, Oswald Ingram, Michael Lyons, Janet Long, Flo Grant, Elvira Wighton, Edith Kennedy, Isabel Reid, John Little, John Winterbottom, David O’Neill, Dan Atkinson.

Funding Organisations

Australia Council for the Arts; NSW Attorney General’s Department; Department of Education, Science and Training; Department of Juvenile Justice.