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Welcome to Country - Ballarat. Photo courtesy City of Ballarat.
Next time you are coming to, or passing through, Ballarat you are bound to notice the striking ‘Welcome to Country' signage.
Officially launched at the end of January the signage was a project of the City of Ballarat's Unfinished Business Advisory Committee (UBAC) in consultation with Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative (UBAC).
The signs, six in total placed at major entry and exit points, feature phrases in the Wathaurong language both welcoming people on arrival- ‘Kim Barne Barre Wathaurong' and farewelling them on departure - ‘Kungadgee'.
The Wathaurong are the tradtional custodians of the Ballarat area.
The artwork concept came from Regional Arts Victoria's ‘Fresh & Salty - Ballarat' project (the large-scale ephemeral Platypus geoglyph on the bed of Lake Wendouree) and is the work of Indigenous Artist Billy Blackall in collaboration with artist Michael Shiell.
The design features the platypus (baarlijan) which has been adopted as a symbol of the current Aboriginal community. The platypus, seemingly a creature made of many different parts, represents the diversity of the contemporary Indigenous community which is now made up of Indigenous people from many different tribal groups.
Ballarat Regional Arts Development Officer, Verity Higgins, sits on UBAC and helped to forward the signage project by linking the artists and an artistic advisor, Paul Mason, who oversaw the overall design for the signage, with the committee.
UBAC formed in 2003, was established to further the reconciliation process in Ballarat and to work towards a more inclusive city that acknowledges Aboriginal heritage and works to ensure that Indigenous Australians living in the city have the same opportunities to contribute and participate in community life.
Annie Young, Co-chair of UBAC, said of the signage ‘It's good to have recognition of the traditional owners and this acknowledgement assists with reconciliation within our contemporary community. I feel a sense of pride every time I drive past them.'