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Fanny Balbuk Yooreel Memorial

Artists Concept

This commemorative sculpture in honour of Fanny Balbuk-Yooreel is essentially a narrative-symbolic artwork, designed with the intention of informing the viewer in clear graphic terms of the history and legacy of this Aboriginal female ‘resistance fighter’ and the significance of her achievements against enormous odds.

It is therefore specifically designed to consolidate and enhance the commemorative community endeavours which have become a vital force in recent years, to honour the life and achievements.

It is particularly intended to link in with the establishment of the Commemorative Walk: “Fanny Balbuk-Yoorel: realising a resistance fighter” that follows the ‘virtual footsteps’ of Yooreel, culminating in the grounds of Government House, where ceremonies now take place and flowers are laid in her memory.

This amazingly strong- minded Whadjuk woman persisted in her demand for the recognition of her Land Rights through the early days of the development of Metropolitan Perth, as the new ‘Colony’ was built directly over Whadjuk- Noongar Country; her ‘ Booja-’ home and that of her extended family.

Throughout this area Yooreels’ ancestors freely ‘roamed, hunted, fought and danced for many a generation’-including, most importantly, gathering much of their sustenance from the extensive waterways and swamps- which were subsequently buried under the new settlement of Perth. 
This concept is for a central commemorative sculptural ‘tableau’ established in the grounds of Government House Perth WA, to ensure that this becomes a permanent monument, with the ability to endure into future centuries, in bronze and stone.

It will thereby further the collaborative efforts to remember the critical and highly significant achievements of Fanny Balbuk -Yooreel that ultimately informed the Noongar Native Title Claim in 2006 - where it was upheld that; ‘Native Title rights exist in the Perth Metropolitan Area’.

Our concept design consists of a slightly over life-size bronze sculpture of Fanny Balbuk -Yooreel, ‘engaged’ in the act of pointing with her Wanna - her digging stick - to the drastic changes being wrought upon her homeland: the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) by the establishment of the English Swan River Colony in 1829. On the inlaid granite artwork map beneath her, (based on the map of Perth drawn in 1838), the European streetscape and urban development plans, are overlaid on the original wetlands.

This was her "line of march” and she gestures symbolically, while beckoning the observer to please come and see and understand the great wrong being visited upon her people by Colonial Settlement.( This Wanna, digging stick, was what she famously used to break down the fences of the newly built ‘settlement’- so it is a significant symbolic element).

As in our Lock Hospital Tragedy sculpture, the Indigenous Pearl Diver Memorial and including our waiting Woman sculpture at the HMAS Sydney Memorial - we have tried to capture a vital sense of emotional expression within a static bronze sculpture. Our intention is to infuse the sculpture of Fanny Balbuk with a similar sense of intense visual expression.
She was described as having a “powerful, sturdy frame and a quick, strong, and somewhat domineering temper”. Therefore we want our sculpture to express this powerful personality and be vividly interactive, tactile and emotionally expressive.

There is therefore, a ‘contained intensity’ in every part of her body, from the expression on her face, the slight turn of her torso, and the extended hand inviting the visitor to look for themselves, down to the way her feet meet the ground - as if she was halted in mid- stride and was still here with us today.

Fanny Balbuk -Yooreel, was an extraordinary woman under any circumstances. As a young Aboriginal, vigorously resisting Colonial Settlement, on her ‘home ground’; her incredible bravery and indomitable spirit has become a beacon for Noongar people today, in search of social justice and recognition. Her memory needs to be cherished by all Australians and, without rancour, her story simply needs to be told.
It has been our singular honour to have the opportunity to create such a sensitive and significant commemorative sculpture on behalf of the Whadjuk- Noongar people, as well as the entire Community of Western Australia.

We see our sculpture as a healing, and important narrative work of not forgetting and significantly, the first female public sculpture in St. George’s Terrace, the heart of this modern dynamic city, with the power to embrace the future, while healing the past.
Charles Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith







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