Transforming a pipeline into First Nations mural

Thanks to a First Nations-inspired artwork project, a graffiti-covered 800-metre pipeline in Tempe that carries millions of litres of drinking water from the Sydney Desalination Plant (SDP) every day is being given a major facelift.

“This mural not only enhances the landscape of the local area but also serves as a tribute to the rich culture and traditions of Australia’s First Nations communities,” SDP chief executive officer Phil Narezzi said.

“SDP is committed to sustainability, community, and cultural diversity. Through this collaboration with Re-Right and the talented young First Nations artists involved, we are not just delivering drinking water but a message of cultural preservation and unity.”

The pipeline, which runs alongside Airport Drive and the Alexandra Canal, transports up to 250 million litres of desalinated drinking water from SDP’s Plant in Kurnell to Sydney Water’s Erskineville supply network so it can be distributed across the city.

It was designed by Dennis Golding (Kamilaroi, Gamilaraay) and Carmen Glynn-Braun (Kaytetye, Anmatyerr, and Arrernte), co-founders of the First Nations artistic collective Re-Right.

“We wanted to support young and up-and-coming artists to ensure generational storytelling within the project,” Glynn-Braun said.

The mural’s design is based on key elements from the local land and seawaters of the Bidjigal, Gadigal, and Dharawal clans including images of seagulls, oysters, and wattles.

“We took Dakota and Wirrin to the pipeline, and they picked out different motifs for our design that were significant in the local area’s stories, such as seagulls, oysters, and wattles,” Glynn-Braun said.

“From there, we laid it out to continue this pattern of a coastline from a topographical lens so that it would seem as though people walking or cycling past are exploring the country from one end of the pipeline to the other.”

Golding and Glynn-Braun work with local communities to create public artworks honouring First Nations’ culture and experiences.

Their previous projects include the design of light projections on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge for Sydney’s 2022 New Year’s Eve Fireworks and artwork on the roadways and earth mounds of the Sydney Gateway in 2021.

Artists Jo Breneger and Leia Sidery from Indigo Jo, a bespoke signage and muralist company, began painting the mural’s design in late March and are expected to finished the massive project by June.

A key inspiration for the artwork was the shape of the boomerang, a significant cultural object made from mangrove trees, like those abundant in the pipeline’s area.

The bend of the boomerang inspired the artists to create a key pattern of two waterways that references the coastline and rivers to which the pipeline is connected.

Young First Nations artists Dakota Dixon-Campbell and Wirrin Lowe advised on some of the artwork’s key elements and icons, including the local shellfish found in the Cooks River and Alexandra Canal and wattles growing in the area.

“The design celebrates the stories, traditions and knowledge of the local lands and waters,” Golding said.

“It is important to truthfully share these stories and uncover past histories through the lens and voices of the community.”

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