A NEW Indigenous mural was officially unveiled at Gumnuts Early Learning Centre in Sale on Wednesday, to the delight of the centre's staff and children.
In an effort to make the centre more culturally inclusive, the centre's director Brendon Ronan charged Indigenous artist Nanette Channing with the task of representing the centre through a mural.
The large painting, spread across four separate boards, depicts the learning journey of the children at Gumnuts, through a mix of Indigenous symbols, native animals and features of the centre.
The image makes reference to the rooms the children move through during their time at the centre - from entering as a 'wombat', right through to when the big kids leave the kinder as 'emus'.
The mural, which took months to paint, hangs facing the playground in the three-to-five year old yard at Gumnuts, and staff and children have waited patiently through COVID-19 restrictions for its big reveal.
The official ceremony was attended by Wellington Shire councillors Carolyn Crossley, Ian Bye and Jill Wood, as well as Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien.
The mural now joins the inclusion of Borun the pelican and Tuk the Musk Duk - the Dreamtime ancestors of the Gunaikurnai, as drawn by some of the centre's children - on the centre's branding.
Nanette was encouraged by a friend to apply for the job, and was thrilled to accept in February 2020.
"I walked into this beautiful, amazing place that I had never seen before - it was just gorgeous - and I thought wow, what an opportunity to put what this kinder represents for the community and for the kids and for future generations onto a board," she said.
Nanette described the work as "a job and a half".
"I had eight wooden horses on the back of my back deck, and I rotated those boards every time I needed to do a piece," she said.
"I began in the middle, with our meeting place symbol, and I added the next one and the next one and I kept working my way around."
The artwork has since been translated into a staff uniform and shirts for the children, who were quick to show off their new get-ups to Nanette when she arrived on Wednesday.
"I love to paint, I love working with kids, and their reaction is the most important reaction for me - how they see it, how they relate to it," Nanette said.
"They are proud to wear it ... it is just beautiful to see.
"These kids did, and have begun, a journey, starting at wombats, and will finish up emus and will head out into the big wide world to where they'll go into primary school.
"As an artist, I'm very proud to have this piece here; as an Aboriginal artist I'm even prouder of my heritage.
"I write a story every time I do a piece of art, and this one's called 'It's Just the Beginning', and for the little ones sitting in front of us, it is just the beginning for them.
"We as older people have done this journey ourselves, but they've got the opportunity now, and we get an opportunity to watch them grow and mature and be the people they're meant to be.
"I am very proud that this will sit here and last for many, many, many years ... because I have varnished it to last for a long time," she laughed.
"I had a blast doing this."
Emu Griffin Davies, aged four, said the part he liked most about the mural was the lady who painted it, because she was nice.
"I like the handprints too," he said.
Fellow emu, Grace Van De Vloet, also aged four, is a budding artist herself.
"I like my T-shirt and the painting the most because they match," she said.
"I also like the butterflies and the trees.
"I like drawing butterflies with all the colours of the rainbow."
The project itself was made possible with $6000 in funding through Uniting Gippsland.
At the ceremony Mr Ronan presented Nanette with a Gumnuts uniform, so she could feel "connected to Gumnuts forever".