Last Thursday, 3 June, Reconciliation Week was the impetus for a community celebration at West End’s People’s Park. The theme for the week was More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, or as Kylie Deen put it, “doing, not just talking”. That was precisely the vibe at the park last week.

Over the last year, the revival of the park has been a focus for many local groups. West End Community Association (WECA), West End Community House (WECH), 98.9fm, Kurilpa Futures, and First Nations artists have participated.

Thursday’s celebration kicked off at 6am, with an acknowledgement of Country from Aunty Dawn Daylight. Later in the day, there was weaving with Nadine Foley and artmaking with Duane Doyle.

First Nations artist and Q Music Finalist Eleea performed live, as well as Deadly Choices Ambassadors. And there was a visit from members of 1MP Battalion Delta Company.

West End Bakery supplied breakfast, while the 98.9fm Breakfast team – Tariana Olive and Jharal Yow Yeh – kept us entertained with music and interviews.

Uncle Duane Doyle

Indigenous radio station 98.9fm has been a big part of People’s Park for over 20 years and has returned to broadcast regularly from the Kiosk in the past year. Station Manager Dan Rennie thinks of the Park as a place for everybody to gather.

“On the doors of the Kiosk we’ve got the paintings that represent meeting places: this is what this area represents for the local mob,” Dan said.

“Duane said it before, it’s not a big splash, but there’s a lot of love in here, and there’s a lot of good vibes. We want it to be a place where everyone can come and enjoy it, and be taught a little bit about culture and being aware of what’s happening.”

“I think Aunty Dawn summed it up so beautifully earlier: we all come from different backgrounds, different colours, different shades. There are some people in the community who don’t really understand or appreciate what we’re trying to do down here, and that’s fine, we’ll continue to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Dan Rennie with Seleanah More

Like 98.9fm, WECH has a long history with People’s Park. Kylie Deen, Community Development Worker at WECH, has brought her infectious energy to the Park’s revamp over the past year.

“We have been working on this for a year or more. And we know how amazing it is, but it’s just about uplifting the Park to the rest of the community and knowing how great the space is, and how much we need this space. It’s just absolutely amazing. I cannot tell you the vibes, and the level of connection to this space.”

Kylie said some of the leading players they wanted to thank on Thursday are Aunty Dawn Daylight, Duane Doyle, and Wayne, who she calls, ‘the keeper of the park’.

“None of this would be possible without Wayne. I feel like this is just a little thank you to them for the great work they do.”

Uncle Adam with Kylie Deen

Reconciliation Week

Dan said Reconciliation Week shines a spotlight on the oldest living culture in the world.

“It’s our opportunity to grab a little bit of that spotlight and show people what we’re all about and to be proud of all aspects of this country, particularly the First Nations people.”

Kylie said that while we focus on reconciliation for one week of the year, it happens every day at the Park.

“We see it all the time: non-Indigenous people coming into this space and wanting to meet a First Nations person, so it’s breaking down those barriers. It’s beautiful.”

Kylie said people come into the Park and ask about the Kiosk or ask to meet one of the artists.

“I’ve seen it here before when school kids have come, and Duane has played didge for them and explained to them what the didge is. And some people have come in to apologise for what has been done to First Nations people. It’s touching. I guess it’s part of the healing process as well.”

“I do see that on these dates of significance we do get pulled in a few directions, but we’re really blessed and really lucky that we have a strong community that supports each other.”

Some of the stencils used by Duane Doyle for his artwork

With funding from Local Councillor Jonathan Sri, Duane Doyle has been doing his intricate artwork on the rails and poles in and around Peoples Park for the past 18 months.

“I have a lot of pride inside my heart, for what’s happening here today,” Duane told me.

Duane said he has learned how to paint in a contemporary Aboriginal art style with the “Art Gang” at West End Community House.

The Kiosk art group is facilitated by Duane every Tuesday morning, and on Wednesday mornings, he co-facilitates the women’s art group.

“We’ve got a lot of beautiful friends that we’ve only just met in the past 12 months. But having people like Kylie Deen and Dan Rennie and 98.9 and West End Community House encouraging me to go forward, is fantastic.”

Aunty Dawn Daylight says People’s Park has been cleaned up a lot in recent times.

“I don’t know if it’s been cleaned up to keep Murri’s out of the area, or because it’s a respected place. I think it’s just letting people know that we want to keep it like this. I think it has a different feel because we can work here, we can play, we can paint, we can do music. Everybody can come here and use this place – both Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal. I think it’s a place where people can be seen in a better light. We do things and we have input, and we also bring a bit of excitement to the West End community.”

“I know it doesn’t look very big and inviting but it is a good place. … It’s a healing thing for a lot of us I think, and if we’re going through that trauma of removal of Aboriginal children and stuff like that, this actually helps to bring us back, to be included and to feel that we are healing.”

Aunty Dawn Daylight

Breaking Boundaries

 The event was also an opportunity to launch the mural “Breaking Boundaries” by Boneta Rie Mabo (Neta Rie).

 Neta Rie said that when WECA approached her to do the mural, she was asked to work with the West End community to develop a design.

“So, I spent a lot of time in the Park. I was down here one day, and a women’s painting group was here, I was listening to some of the songs, and someone had written this song about West End and this Park and how the community makes them feel like they belong somewhere. And it got me thinking about how blackfellas are with our community: how we look after each other, we know where we belong, we know who we are, which keeps us safe. I think even though colonisation has happened, and it continues to be a struggle Aboriginal people face every day, because we have each other we are able to move through and that’s why we’re still here.”

“I was thinking about how, if white Australia would listen to black fellas a little bit more, and actually hear what we have to say when it comes to things like land, and me as a prison abolitionist … if we were listened to and heard and taken more seriously, I think that it would be more freeing for everybody. That’s what is represented in the painting.”

Neta Rie said the caged rabbits in the mural represent the colonised people who are so often ignored and not seen.

“When it comes to any area of our lives, like our self-determination and our autonomy, about what is right for us, its kind of looked over and not actually taken that seriously. And so, if that was to be flipped, we would see a very different culture in Australia. We’d create a freer society.”

Wayne – Keeper of the Park

President of West End Community Association (WECA), Seleanah Moore, said WECA has been activating Boundary Street for some time.

“The Kurilpa Derby is probably our signature injection of community energy, but we were looking for different ways to keep that energy going.”

Seleanah said that being involved with People’s Park was a response to a Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) report organised by the local traders.

“There were some design interventions, but they were really oriented around restricting the space, and we don’t believe in that because it’s a park primarily, and also it’s a park with a lot of connection and history for vulnerable people, particularly First Nations people. So, we wanted to come up with a way to engage with that and honour that. Around the same time West End Community House, 98.9FM and Kurilpa Futures were thinking along the same lines, so it was sort of a natural coming together of like-minded people.”

“Having people around makes places positive. People make places. There’s been a beautification of the space physically, but you need people to keep coming here. So that’s really been a true investment.”

“I think that the traders can see that and are experiencing that. We’re super happy that West End bakery has been involved in the day”.

1MP Battalion Delta Company with Dan Rennie and Aunty Dawn Daylight

Harmony Downes, also of WECA, said it had taken many hands to get to this point.

“When they say that it takes a community to pull amazing things together, it’s true.”

“Using art to create safety in a place of belonging, and sharing those stories is a really powerful message.”

Kara Burns, who applied for the mural grant on behalf of WECA, said she is amazed at the transformation of the space.

“This is something that everybody in the community can be proud of, but in particular, I think it’s really worth pointing out Neta Rie’s contribution to the space. It is a really nice story about reclaiming space and making sure that community still has access to the space, and I hope it gets told for generations.”

Federal Member for Griffith Terri Butler facilitated the Stronger Communities grants to West End Community Association, Kurilpa Futures and West End Community House for planting work and contributing to the Breaking Boundaries mural. As Federal Parliament was sitting in Canberra, Ms Butler was unable to attend, and Carly Daniel represented her at the event.

“Supporting this project through the Stronger Communities Program was a pleasure after all the madness of last year. To get to this point speaks to the efforts of the community and all of the organisations involved,” Ms Daniel said.

Speaking with the Westender after the event Ms Butler said:

“I was so happy to be able to support the revival of People’s Park. This wonderful space brings our community together to celebrate our First Nations’ heritage and our shared future.”

Listen to 98.9’s podcast of Eleea from the morning here –


Cover Image, Boneta Rie Mabo (Neta Rie) – all images by Jan Bowman