More Public Art For Us to See

Benalla is fast becoming recognised as Australia’s leading street art destination.  It hosts an incredible variety of murals created by street artists at the top of their game from around the world. We drove around the streets of the city this morning to find some of them before leaving town.

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We then travelled west across to Rochester today via Shepparton this morning. This is an area of irrigation, fruit trees and dairy farms. For some reason, the locals shorten most of the names of nearby towns to just one syllable. I assume that this has something to do with their level of intelligence. We visited ‘Shepp’ (Shepparton) but bypassed ‘Ky'(Kyabram). We did drive through ‘Roop’ (Maroopna) and through ‘Toke’ (Tocumwal).

In Shepparton, we found a park full of painted fibreglass cows. They form part of a ‘Moooving Art’ exhibition which is an ever changing public art program. These painted fibreglass bovines are scattered throughout Shepparton in public gardens, playgrounds and businesses and are full of colour, spunk and personality. Over 90 cows are in the herd. ‘Moooving Art’ reflects the strength of the dairy industry in Greater Shepparton because this region produces a large percentage of Australia’s dairy exports, making the bovine a perfect choice for this exhibition.

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If you look up laneways and on some local government buildings in town, you can see murals painted by the well known artist Adnate (whose work we saw in the Goorambat church yesterday). His works in Shepparton are part of the Aboriginal Street Art Project that honours the proud and strong Yorta Yorta Aborginal People who have occupied this area since time began.

The first mural that we found depicts the late William Cooper and the late Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls KCVO OBE MBE. Both these men were Aboriginal leaders who made major contributions to not just the local region but Australia as a whole.

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Further down the same lane is another mural of local elders Aunty Margaret Tucker (MBE), one of Australia’s first female Aboriginal rights activists, and Nora “Nanny” Charles, one of the earliest and best known local Aboriginal midwives.

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This art project also includes another mural that has been painted by a different artist of Private Daniel Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man who fought for Australia during World War 1. Private Daniel Cooper died on a European battlefield in 1917.

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At Rushworth, we stopped for lunch at the local bakery. You can’t go wrong with shops like these in Australia. They all have good simple food that is fresh and tasty. Rushworth has many buildings and a streetscape that is classified by the National Trust. It has a very historic and wide main street with historic buildings and a huge median strip in the middle. It must be one of the most impressive main streets in rural Victoria.

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I noticed that the railway station has been converted into a toilet (comfort station). This is an odd euphemism for a toilet, but no less vague than an American restroom (where there is no place to rest) or bathroom (which doesn’t have a bath either). I think there are many words in Australian slang for a toilet but none of them are very euphemistic – dunny, thunder box, loo, toot, out house.

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Rushworth was established during the Victorian gold rush in 1853. It was named by poet and later local Goldfields Commissioner Richard Henry Horne in 1854. Its post office opened on 16 September 1857. The goldfields became unviable due to the shallow underground water table and they were closed before the gold rush ended.

We did a bit of a detour to Colbinnabin as the silo there is currently being painted. The artist is the same man who painted the silos in the town of St James. Only the concrete part of the structure has currently been painted. The artist has nearly finished it after three weeks of work and then he will move on to the other four shorter still silos.

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Travelling on from Colbinnabin, it was easy to see why the silos have been so important in this area. The farming properties in this region have huge paddocks in which grain is grown. The topography is very flat and we could see very large fields stretching right across to the horizon.

We ended the day in Rochester – a small country town in Victoria situated approximately 180 km north of Melbourne. The Campaspe River runs right through the town. It rises in the wooded hilly terrain of the Great Dividing Range and then descends through undulating foothills, emerging onto the wide, flat riverine plains of northern Victoria before joining the Murray River.

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Jimmy D’Vate, one of Australia’s most well known mural artists was chosen to paint the GrainCorp Silos here. He always tries to feature local endemically threatened species and in this case he chose the Azure King Fisher and the Squirrel Glider.

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On the tall silo is a wrist-winged Squirrel Glider. This animal has a home range extending from Bordertown near the South Australian / Victorian border through south eastern Australia to northern Queensland. This species was once thought to be extinct in South Australia since 1939 until a genetic test confirmed their continued inhabitance in the area.

On the shorter silo is the Azure Kingfisher with its combination of royal blue plumage on its upper parts contrasting with its orange underparts, makes it one of the smallest and most dazzling kingfishers in Australia. It inhabits the vegetation beside waterways and other wetlands. It is pictured perched on a branch alongside the Campaspe River.