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Aboriginal Public Art Project

The City of Ryde appointed a public art team lead by Milne and Stonehouse working with Aboriginal artist Chris Tobin to capture a vision for the Riverwalk that pays tribute to the City’s Indigenous heritage. The collaboration resulted in the Bennelong to Kissing Point Park Aboriginal Arts Plan featuring three main initiatives:  

  • Ground-plane artwork
  • A meeting place artwork
  • A snapper fish wind sculpture

After being presented to and discussed with local Aboriginal groups the Plan was adopted by Council.

The first realisation of the Arts Plan is the Snapper fish wind sculptures, installed in December 2011. These beautiful works located in Kissing Point Park represent the traditional totem of the area’s original inhabitants, the Wallumedegal people. It is likely that the clan’s name derives from the word Wallumai meaning snapper fish, and matta, a word denoting a place, as with Parramatta or Cabramatta. Thus those living on the southern side of the river, in what is now the Ryde area, were the snapper fish clan. Similarly Burra - the eel - was the totem of the Burramatta or Boromeda-gal clan from which Parramatta derives its name.

Aboriginal Public Art Project Close up

The river and its aquatic life not only sustained the Wallumedegal physically: it was intrinsic to their culture, identity and way of life, and this is reflected in their adoption of the Snapper as their cultural totem.

Milne and Stonehouse worked with Chris Tobin and a team of skilled metallurgists, designers and fabricators to bring the Snapper fish vision to life. The impressive results can now be seen gracing the riverfront at Kissing Point Park.

The overall aim of the Riverwalk is to:

  • Create a high quality public space along the Parramatta River foreshore through the installation of permanent contemporary art works that reflect the history, stories and values of local Aboriginal communities
  • Honour the Indigenous heritage and contemporary Aboriginal culture of the City of Ryde in a historical and high profile public space
  • Establish a public space which acts as a gathering place for the community, including the Aboriginal community, and which is a focal point for cultural and official gatherings (eg NAIDOC)
  • Create greater community awareness of Indigenous people, their custodianship of the land and presence in the Ryde community
  • Increase the diversity and quality of the City of Ryde’s public art collection.

Concept Plans

Project Location: Bennelong Park to Kissing Point Park, Putney
Project Funding: City of Ryde
Project Completion:
Stage 1 (landscaping and groundplane works) completed 2010
Stage 2 (installation of Wallumai fish sculptures) completed December 2011

Last updated on 2 November 2015