A Wonnarua welcome

Visitors to the new Maitland Hospital will be greeted by a 75m long arbour designed by local Aboriginal artist Saretta Fielding. The artwork draws in symbols of the local landscape to give visitors a Wonnarua welcome when they arrive. Local traditional symbols and totems have been interwoven into the briquette system to acknowledge the Wonnarua people as the traditional custodians of the land.
Using visual imagery, it tells their story and celebrates the invaluable cultural knowledge they bring to the wider community (past, present and future) and invites visitors to learn more.

The Artist

Local indigenous artist, Saretta Fielding was commissioned to create the artwork design of the arbour to share and celebrate local Aboriginal culture, history and the stories of the Wonnarua people. She consulted with the community of Wonnarua Country, including the Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council and Elders, and several Wonnarua artists.

About the Design

The symbols that flow across the briquette canvas include the U shape symbol (A). This represents the lakes and wetlands that were prevalent during traditional times and is also the totem for people and community walking together to collaborate and support. It is used here to symbolise that the hospital is a safe place for all those seeking care.

The Elders’ symbol (B) has been placed central to the artwork and over the main entrance to the hospital. The wedge tailed eagle symbol (C) is the totem of the Wonnarua people and is placed on either side. This acknowledges the importance of the Wonnarua Elders and their esteemed place in the community as leaders, teachers and knowledge keepers.

The songlines across the top of the artwork (D) represent the Hunter River and its importance to traditional life and today, including many trade routes which are still used across Country by railway and major road systems. The symbol representing Mount Yengo (E), known as the Uluru of the East is also highlighted within the landscape and depicts the rolling hills and plains that are home to the Wonnarua people. It is highly significant to all the clan groups across the region.

A Dreamtime story shares that Biami (God) creator, lore giver and protector stepped down upon Mount Yengo when he created Country. They are closely connected to each other and are related traditional sites across Country. It is a highly significant landmark for local and surrounding Aboriginal tribal groups.

The earthy colour palette of the natural clay briquette closely resembles traditional ochres in Biami’s cave and are commonly seen in sites on Country - their texture referencing natural sand engravings within the area.
Watch the video to hear from Saretta Fielding about how she created the artwork.