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Byron Shire
July 28, 2021

New totem tells Indigenous stories

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The Mullumbimby Gateway Committee have been busy working towards creating an inclusive welcome structure that reflects this very extraordinary little town and its story.

And now it’s ready for the community to enjoy.

Members of the team which created the new Mullumbimby Gateway. Image Jeff Dawson.

Richard Mordaunt was involved in the first Gateway project in 1987, and he has also been part of the committee that has driven the current re-imagining of the Uncle Tom’s turnoff.

He says, ‘The first gateway involved Bob Gray, Jim Nutter, Roger Garlic and Ruby Collins. All that original team are up on the board at the Rotunda.’

As a filmmaker and local resident, Richard believes that a gateway is an integral part of how a person enters a town.

‘A gateway should tell the story of who we are, and what our spirit is as a town.

‘It slowly started to look like an old church yard that no one had looked after, and we realised we had to renew it’, said Richard.

‘In February 2019, Essential Energy lifted the old totems out of the ground, only for the committee to discover white ants had eaten their way through. And so a new vision was born.

So Richard filled in the forms and a completely new team was gathered to refresh the Gateway – along with Richard, that team included Richard Hughes, Sunita Bailey, and Greg Aitken with assistance from Maggie Brown.

Richard was aware of what happened in Byron Bay with the ‘Disco Dong’ sculpture, and admitted that the public’s reaction to it made the gateway committee nervous.

Sculpture wary

‘I think what happened in Byron was so sad. All these people climbed out from under rocks to attack and attack, whether right or wrong, it was something not great to do to someone in a public space’, he said.

‘The whole of our team is local, and 70 per cent of what we have done is Indigenous – it is very inclusive – it has been paid for through the community.

‘We knew we wanted to celebrate our Indigenous heritage.’

‘We have worked with Delta Kay for the last year, and Daniel Hend has painted a panorama for the rotunda. We hope we have created a newculturalspacebygoing into our Aboriginal heritage.

‘We tried to do it 30 years ago, but we didn’t manage it. This time, we had quite a big Indigenous team – the totem is carved with all the animals of the Indigenous people of this region – and that has been painted by Digby Moran and Richard Clarke.

Very sadly, Digby died in January, having just completed his work on the pole. All the bright colours are Digby’s colours.

‘We decided to paint the new totem – it had been sitting in a paddock for seven years – it was carved by people and elders from all over the world. We wrote to Barat at Uplift and asked if he would donate it, to which he graciously agreed’.

He added, ‘It you don’t paint it, it will deteriorate.’

An inauguration for the gateway is planned for August 30.

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  1. Hooray for Richard and his team, both past and present. I love the idea of public sculpture at any time or place but this one is special — relevant, emotive and beautifully realised. A terrific addition to a great community. Thanks and congratulations. Mungo


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