First Peoples honoured at site of Australia’s first convent

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Catholic Outlook

The Sisters of Mercy Parramatta have officially unveiled a ground painting in recognition of Australia’s First Peoples on the site of the country’s first convent. 

The sisters commissioned Ngemba artist Danny Eastwood to create the artwork recognising the Burramattagal people of the Darug nation who first lived in the Parramatta area.

It is situated on the site of Australia’s first convent, built by the Sisters of Charity in 1839. The convent now houses the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta’s congregation centre and Our Lady of Mercy College.

The artwork was a direct result of a request from the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in NSW’s Social Justice Committee that religious congregations consider acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which they built community houses and schools by installing plaques near foundation stones.

After it became apparent that there was no space available to add a new plaque at the congregation centre, Sr Maria Lawton RSM proposed the commissioning of an Aboriginal ground painting around the base of the existing monument, symbolically reflecting the congregation’s European history being built upon the extensive history of the First Peoples.

After viewing the site, Eastwood suggested the natural boomerang shape of the area be used as the basis for the concreting for the ground painting.

The ground painting was unveiled on 13 October. The ceremony began with a welcome to country and smoking ceremony by Darug man Chris Tobin, a custodian of Darug culture and history.

Eastwood, who was guest of honour, spoke about the painting, named The Journey. In creating the artwork, he used traditional Aboriginal designs to depict aspects of Parramatta and to reflect the various religious women who lived and ministered on the site.
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