Yarra City Council received a grant through the Department of Justice and Regulation’s Graffiti Prevention Grants 2016-2017 program to commission a Victorian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist to create a meaningful and inspiring artwork across the entire eastern wall of the Charcoal Lane building to focus on Aboriginal identity and culture in Fitzroy and highlight the history and significance of Gertrude Street, this building and this area for the Aboriginal community.
Following a rigorous selection process Gunnai / Waradgerie man Robert Young’s artwork was selected for the commission. Robert worked on the mural with fellow street artists Heesco and Makatron.
The building at 136 Gertrude Street is an important landmark within the Aboriginal community; the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) was based here from 1979-1992 and still hold the lease on the building, which is now sublet to Mission Australia. The Young family has a strong connection to Fitzroy. Many of Robert’s family members worked at VAHS over the years including his mum and aunties who visited Aboriginal communities on the dental bus.
Robert’s design pays tribute to the past; to the leaders, visionaries and ground-breakers who provided a solid foundation for community to build on. It depicts the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and their critical long-standing service to community that continues today and it highlights the important role that Charcoal Lane restaurant plays in providing guidance, support and opportunities to young Aboriginal people. The work also looks to the future and the generations to come. Bunjil the eagle is acknowledged by the Wurundjeri Tribe as a creator spirit. In the mural Bunjil is depicted watching over the past, present and future generations of Aboriginal people in this area and in this building.
The artwork fosters a welcoming environment for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. The mural educates audiences, promotes inclusion, incites conversation and contributes to the creative capital of this locale, welcoming visitors to the area and to the establishment.