Indigenous murals brighten base

Indigenous artist Garry Purchase with one of his murals. Photo: Able Seaman Lucinda Allanson

Indigenous murals brighten base

Indigenous artist Garry Purchase has left his mark around Sydney’s Garden Island Defence Precinct with a series of bright, hand-painted murals in offices and open spaces. 

“A bit of colour makes for a more productive workplace I think,” said Mr Purchase, who is of Dharawal, Bidjigal and Dhungutti descent. 

“There’s only so many white walls you can stare at.”

The command ceremonial office features fish and traditional bark canoes, and a corrugated wall by the gym has been transformed with a large leaping whale. The sea is a central theme in the artist’s work. 

 “Aboriginal people are broken into two categories,” Mr Purchase said.

 “We have fresh water and salt water. I am a saltwater man, which means that I live on the coast.”

He was keen to take on the Garden Island project because of pride in his Indigenous heritage and family ties to Navy.

“I’ve got naval personnel on both sides of our family. I said yes straight away for that reason,” he said.

“My uncle Keith was in HMAS Kuttabul for about nine months. He fought in Korea.

“My wife’s dad, Steve, was based down at HMAS Albatross but he was here as well. That would have been the late ’70s, early ’80s.”   

The murals were commissioned by Estate & Infrastructure Group, which manages and sustains the Defence estate of land, buildings and infrastructure.

Kuttabul Base Manager Kirstan Smelcher said each mural reflected its setting.   

“Gary is an amazing artist. He takes into consideration the area that he is actually doing the mural for and what their working group’s about and then he comes up with the story,” Ms Smelcher said. 

Mr Purchase was recommended by Buri Building and Design, an Aboriginal-owned building company that has done work around Garden Island.

Commanding Officer Kuttabul Captain Matthew Shand said the murals were a fantastic initiative. 

“It’s a very visible demonstration of our commitment to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community here resident at the base. They are part of the team,” Captain Shand said. 

He said Navy aims to build a strong, sustainable, diverse, innovative and highly capable workforce that reflects the Australian community.

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