Giidany Miirlarl Public Artwork

Muttonbird Island, Coffs Harbour- 2012

The project incorporates an outdoor education and performance space and timber entry ramp to the island, providing shelter and a place for story telling, learning, and rest. Integration of the structure with artwork by local Indigenous artists creates an engaging experience through which one enters the island, enhancing awareness of the natural and cultural significance of this special place. Working closely with the artists, Fisher Design + Architecture transformed sketches and drawings into elements designed to enhance the experience of walking toward and through the space, and enable a cultural storytelling of the significance of Muttonbird Island.

The local Aboriginal People of the past and today in the Coffs Harbour area belong to the Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Nation. The Gumbaynggirr People have an ongoing connection with the land and water. For them, heritage and nature are inseparable from one another. The Island is significant to the Gumbaynggirr People culturally and forms part of their spirituality and personal identity.

The artwork inscribed into the timber screen by artist Shane Phillips depicts the story of ‘Giidany Miirlarl – Muttonbird Island and the Giant Man’, as told by Gumbaynggirr Elder Aunty Gloria Phillips:

“The Northern Headland is an island joined to the mainland by a breakwater, is known as a site for nesting Muttonbirds (Moon Island). Muttonbird Island was a meeting place for the ancestors (clever men) who made plans around the camp fire for the next initiation of young lads. Also, harvesting yams and Mutton Birds for their families – over indulgence was a matter for the Giant Man who came down from the moon each month to take care of those who had more. Penality was issued when the giant walked on the beach and took control of the tides – this was used as a weapon for the tribesman who disobeyed the lores.”

Set into the central area of the Education Space at Giidany Miirlarl is a design based on artwork by Indigenous artist Janelle Marshall. The artwork represents a traditional firepit with blackened sticks radiating out toward the Indigenous Nations neighbouring the Gumbaynggirr Nation – the Yaygirr, Banyjalang, Jarriwan and Danghatti. The fifth stick – Gilagung(Ga) – points East to the ancestors out to sea. The artwork was created from a combination of resin set natural black beach stones, naturally coloured gravel and black granite.

Client: National Parks & Wildlife, Coffs Harbour City Council and Arts Mid North Coast

Project: Giidany Miirlarl Outdoor Education Space- Fisher Design and Architecture with Mackenzie Pronk Architects, public art collaboration with Gumbaynggirr artists

Artwork: Shane Phillips and Janelle Marshall

Winner 2012 National Indigenous Tourism Award Winner
Winner 2012 Austrailan Institute of Architects- Premier’s Prize