Yalari Student Painting Competition

To kick off Reconciliation Week this year we launched a painting and creative writing competition for our students, who were working from home. This was an opportunity for them to get away from that computer screens, dust off their paintbrushes and pencils and find something to paint, draw or write about.

We were looking for original work sharing culture, ceremony and spiritual belonging to country. The artwork could be about their totems, ancestral stories and myths, community, dancing, language or song lines. We also asked for a paragraph explaining the story behind the artwork.

The response from our students was great and we received many entrants into the competition. The artworks that were created were amazing, and so were the stories behind them.

The task of selecting a winner was given to our staff in Yalari head office. There were so many great artworks that we couldn’t select just one winner for each prize and so we have tied places for first and second.

The winning artworks are:

First Prizes:

Chloe King – Year 7 Geelong Grammar

The painting shown above represents how aboriginal people are connected through Australia. The painting is split into quadrants to show this. The first quarter is blue. This represents how us as a nation are surrounded by water and are all connected through water. I also have grown up with a really strong connection to turtles as I grew up in WA and would often travel to places where turtles would have a main feature. The second quarter is the land. In the centre there is a boab tree which plays a massive part to our culture as it is a water source and is used for many other reasons such as for wood, shelter and more and is a massive part of how we are connected to land. On either side of the boab tree there are groups (surrounded in white) this shows how the groups live on the land and how each group is close together and are connected one way or another. The third quarter has a hand in the middle and this is to represent the culture and the people. In the hand there are designs using the colours of the aboriginal flag. Black (the hand) for the people, yellow to represent the sun and red for the land. On each corner of the section there are groups of people, in each group there are between 1-2 larger people which represent the elders and the smaller people are the kids and parents. I have stuck to the colours on the aboriginal flag (exception for orange) as I feel it shows our culture greatly. For the last quarter I have done a mix of all three into one area to connect them. There are two hand prints with different shades (white, grey, and brown) which shows the third quarter and the different shades represent how you don’t have to be one shade to be aboriginal and how it doesn’t define how much aboriginal you are. the circle pattern in the middle I have done the centre with the colours from the second quarter to represent the land.

Holly Coffison – Year 10 St Hilda’s

This painting represents the various changes occurring worldwide from the Covid-19 pandemic to the quieter but equally important changes happening within western countries to expose institutional racism. I wanted it to loosely resemble water as water is everchanging and a purifying substance. In a similar way, these positive changes can be purifying, and while they may be uncomfortable to some, the hope and possibility of a better world outweighs that discomfort.

Second Prizes:

Chelsea Edwards – Year 11 Kinross

My painting tells the story of my life’s journey. In my painting it starts off with myself in my home community with my family which are the five symbols and strong cultural identity. The waves follow through to my life right now which is my education, the symbols symbolise my mother, Waverley, Llew and other Yalari staff which have and still are continuing to provide me with support. Finally, the second waves are leading to my bright future. The colours such as purple, represents the meaning of a successful life. Yellow representing happiness and green representing harmony. The symbols in the third part of my life symbolise my family, friends and career.

Summer Lowe – Year 9 MLC Perth

Title and meaning of entry or story– The Creation of the Rivers – The Creation of the Rivers is a painting that tells the story of the rainbow serpent carving out bodies of water using its body carving the rivers and mountains of the land. The rainbow serpent is an aboriginal spirit that helped create the rivers and mountains for the aboriginals to use.

Third Prize:

Anna Robinson – Year 10 Kinross

Meaning – The painting I have created explores Family, Land and Identity. These three things are important to me as they have shaped the person I am today. My family is represented by the five hands in the middle, each hand being one of my family members. I have chosen to use the colour green on the hands as it represents family and eternity. The river running behind the hands represents a traditional landmark of Coonamble the Castlereagh River. With the dots on the painting and the painting as a whole, it explores my identity and how I am proud of who I am and where I come from.

Fourth Prize:

Cheree Whyman – Year 11 Scotch Adelaide

I am a proud aboriginal woman from the Paakintji nation who’s people live and rely on the Darling River. Growing up, I was always taught that the rainbow serpent was one of the most important dreamtime stories about the creation of the land I belong to. The rainbow serpent travelled through Australia, leaving behind the rivers and lakes. The rainbow serpent is the snake in the middle of my painting. I wanted to add a different element that was more modern by showing the height of the land surrounding the serpent with the darker the brown, the higher the land is. This shows the different ridges and hills that are evident on the land I belong to. The blue flowing in between the browns is a representation of the water going through the different heights which would flow down into the river that the serpent is creating. Thank you for providing me with this opportunity to share my culture I am very blessed.



Yalari respects our Elders, past and present, and acknowledges that our office is on Kombumerri country within the lands of the Yugambeh language group

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4 Helensvale Road, Helensvale QLD 4212