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Storytelling on canvas


The Indigenous artist bringing community and culture to life.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then there’s a lot to say about artwork informed by the ancestors and elders of the world’s oldest culture.

Indigenous artist, Maree Bisby, is a Wiradjuri woman from the Mow Gee clan in Mudgee. Born and raised on Awabakal land, Maree uses her connection to country as a tool to keep the art of Aboriginal storytelling alive.

With Aboriginal art traditionally a way to document knowledge and intimacy of a place, Maree was able to capture our shared values in her piece titled ‘Authenticity’, which was commissioned to feature in our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and throughout our broader reconciliation journey.

As a passionate teacher and community capacity building manager in the disability sector, Maree said the artwork is a celebration of Newcastle Permanent’s history and commitment to the entire community.

‘Authenticity’ is an artwork commissioned by Newcastle Permanent, created by Wiradjuri woman and artist Maree Bisby.

“I’ve used traditional storytelling ways to represent Newcastle Permanent’s values,” Maree said.

“The green circles at the bottom are seeds of hope and they’re actually supporting the basis of the RAP to show that there is hope that we, and any organisation, are able to put together a well-established RAP and honour that journey.

“In the next panel, there’s layer of bushtucker to represent the sustenance and natural element in our life that we all need.

“Above that you’ll see body forms and that not all of them are the same – some are classified as able bodied and others are not. What I wanted to do was capture all members of our community and that regardless of our ability we are still able to contribute to society in a meaningful way. For me, this aligned well with the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation and it was really important for me to have inclusion in that space.

“On either side the two large circles have a dual meaning. They represent meeting spaces but also wheelchairs to highlight inclusion again.

“Then we’ve got rainbows for hope. We all go through tough times and for me that fitted in really well with Newcastle Permanent." 

The organisation has been around for so long through the good and the bad but never faltered and is really strong in its values towards supporting community.

“In the very top panel I have the stars that represent the universe. In our culture, we get a lot of guidance from the universe and through looking at the astronomy. It’s very important to me that I always put some element to showcase the universe in there as well.

“Finally, the lines that go all around are about journey and represent the roads or that path that we’re all on. You’ll see just behind the people I’ve used the colour of spirituality with purple in the shape of little mountains to symbolise the hurdles we face in our life, especially over the last few years.”

Artist Maree Bisby used traditional storytelling to capture the community values of Newcastle Permanent.

A RAP is a document that outlines goals and timelines of how organisations can bring cultural education to a workplace and encourage diversity.

Newcastle Permanent Chief Customer and Product Officer, James Cudmore, said the artwork was a perfect representation of where the organisation is in its reconciliation journey.

“There was an enormous sense that we were ready, but it was just the question of how we could harness that and turn it into meaningful action. Our RAP is just the beginning and something we’re really proud of but we want it to be more than just a document,” James said.

“This is a big milestone and over the next 12 months we’ll be focusing on how we can give our people and community an opportunity to actively contribute to and benefit from reconciliation action. For us, this first step is about education and reflection.”

Knowledge is power and for Maree, she always encourages bravery.

“We all have to be brave in our life and do things for the first time. Sometimes that can be awkward and uncomfortable but the thing I’ve learnt is to sit with that uncomfortable silence because that allows people to self-reflect,” Maree said.

“The thing is, we need to be brave enough to move past that. There’s no point in all of us saying that’s too uncomfortable and doing nothing, otherwise we’re never going to grow.”

‘Authenticity’ is something that is now owned by the whole business, proudly on display in Head Office as a reminder to keep moving forward.

We sought an Expression of Interest from Indigenous artists across our regional NSW footprint as part of our procurement process which was shared with Aboriginal Land Councils, Elders, social media channels and print advertising. The final artwork was selected by a panel of representatives from organisations including Newcastle Permanent, Speaking in Colour and the University of Newcastle. Development of our RAP was done in consultation with community members and endorsed by Reconciliation Australia.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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