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Byron Shire
February 24, 2024

Pelican wings of peace replaced

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Pelican wings being repaired at entrance to Mullumbimby. Photo Hans Lovejoy.
Pelican wings being repaired at entrance to Mullumbimby. Photo Hans Lovejoy.

When the hippies started coming out of the woodwork the woodwork became a central theme for the banks of the Brunswick River in Heritage park Mullumbimby. It was 1988 and time to create a dramatic entrance to Mullumbimby from the Pacific Highway at Uncle Toms that represented the changing culture and identity of the town. The world was a mess at that time said project co-ordinator Richard Mordaunt. ‘The idea of Mullumbimby being a representative of the environment and peace was right.’

The Mullumbimby Gateway consists of a shingled rotunda with a roofline symbolic of the mountain forms of Byron Shire and the Mullumbimby peace poles, designed and carved by local woodworkers and artists, stand nearby. 

‘The beautiful shelter was roofed by Stan Ceglinski from the Billinudgel Wood Working Company. He cut all the shingles for the roof. We thought that they wouldn’t last and would frizzle in the sun but you can go an have a look today and there isn’t a single curl,’ said project coordinator Richard Mordaunt.

Three poles were carved on the banks of the Brunswick River over two years.

The largest, 35 foot high, nature pole depicts the animal and plant life in the environment. The pole has tortoises, local birds, a 14 foot carpet snake, goanna, nightcap daisies, the barrel shape of a locally found Aboriginal nulla nulla (an aboriginal hunting stick). At its top stands an eight foot high pelican, whose wings were made from the timbers of the bridge crossing the Pacific Highway at Billinudgel.

The wings of the Pelican were recently repaired and finally put in place on Thursday 9 February by Council as part of a rehabilitation of the Mullumbimby gateway project.

Originally there were three peace poles and a dragon seat however, the seat and one of the poles were eaten by white ants. ‘The third pole, which was female in form, resembled an unfolding leaf and we called it the lady pole,’ said Mordaunt.

The dragon seat was carved out of a huge tree that was washed up on on the New Brighton beach. It was huge, about 18-20m long. Stan Ceglinski had a truck big enough to move it and brought it to the carving workshop that was setup in Heritage park on the Brunswick River. It was then carved as part of a kids workshop funded by NSW arts.’

During the two years it took to carve the three peace poles and the dragon seat on the river bank there was a huge amount of community interest in the project. ‘At one point the Brunswick River flooded and we thought it would all be washed away. The community came to protect it and lashed all the poles to the big trees on the river bank.’

When it was time for the poles to be erected ‘I thought we were going to carry it out there. We had about 40 people ready but we couldn’t even lift it’ laughed Mordaunt. ‘The electricity people came to our rescue and lifted the poles into place for us, they had all the right equipment.’

Exhausted by the end of the project he may have been but Mordaunt was not about to desert it in its final hour and spent the first year mowing the site with his own push along mower before Council committed to maintain the site.

The site is currently undergoing a facelift with the possibility of the third, lost, peace pole being replaced by another piece of public art. ‘Park your cars and get out and have a look at them,’ said Mordaunt. ‘They are amazing pieces of art.’

Anyone interested in getting involved in the project can call Richard Mordaunt on 0407466461 or email [email protected].

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