Teens transform local park

Article image - Teens transform local park Catherine Ferguson, 15, puts the finishing touches on one wall of a bus shelter in Bob Liddiard Park, South Grafton.

A public mural instigated by Clarence Valley Council in regional New South Wales is preventing vandalism and promoting culturally inclusive attitudes.

Armed with a few boxes of spray paint and a can-do attitude, a group of South Grafton teenagers and primary school-aged children transformed a run down bus shelter and 70 metres of paling fence in South Grafton into a vibrant and colourful community mural.

The project was part of a crime prevention project titled Just Don’t, implemented by Clarence Valley Council.  

Funded by the Department of Justice, Just Don’t aimed to implement strategies across the Clarence Valley to improve community awareness about the different types of malicious damage and how to report incidents through the Police Assistance Line, 131 444.

The Bob Liddiard Park art project engaged local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people on South Hill, South Grafton, in a community art activity that focused on pride, respect and culturally significant stories and language. Promoting intergenerational relationships, cultural exchange and knowledge transfer, the bus shelter and fence at the park were transformed into a sea of colour and life.

Located within the Clarence Valley local government area, which has a population of 51,003, the community of South Grafton has a large proportion of residents who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. It experiences a significant degree of disadvantage compared with other communities within the Valley and regional NSW.  

South Grafton has a SEIFA (Socio-Economic Index for Areas) index of 830.2 compared to the Clarence Valley 919.4 and Regional NSW 968.6.

The community art initiative engaged local young people and families to be involved in a collaborative community activity.

Following a number of community consultations with local elders, a mud map for the artwork was developed for implementation.

One participant commented: “I enjoyed myself and it gives the youth a chance to show our art work and our pride and joy for the town we live in, and we can show respect.”

Another said: “I loved it.  I think everyone having a part of the mural means everyone gets ownership, and it helps make it pretty.”

A contracted artist guided the participants through the activity and said he was thrilled with the result.

“It was a great afternoon painting with the local kids and they really appreciated being given the opportunity to contribute to a positive public art piece,” said the artist.

“As we started to run out of daylight, a few kids ran off and organised their parents to come and shine their headlights on the wall so we could get the job finished.

“They were proud of what we were doing and they didn’t want to stop.”

The mural has created a welcoming and culturally responsive community-driven artwork, resulting in the park being a cleaner and safer space, designed by the local community for the local community.