City News

Redfern mural repeats history

Back in Redfern again: Sydney artist Carol Ruff / Photo: Chris Peken

Sydney artist Carol Ruff is restoring the iconic 40,000 years mural in Redfern, which she created herself 30 years ago.

The popular community landmark, on Lawson St adjacent to Redfern Station, has suffered weather and graffiti damage. But residents and community advocate groups have successfully campaigned for the restoration of the historically important artwork.

Ms Ruff will pick up from where she left 30 years ago, having played an integral role in the planning, designing and painting of the original mural on Lawson St. She said the work has been highly significant for the local community.

“We tried to encapsulate the rich and powerful Aboriginal History of Redfern,” Ms Ruff said.

The Lawson St mural was designed to portray the sequence of events of the past and represent the journey of the Aboriginal community.

“We got the community involved and through much consultation we were able to gather photographs and stories to include on the wall,” Ms Ruff said.

The story began with an image of two Aboriginal feet, portraying their people as the first to set foot on the continent. The mural reimagines a 40,000-year long journey with depictions of hunting, spearfishing and women with coolamons on their shoulders.

“The image of the first church, which still stands today, represents the institutionalisation of their children, or what is known as the Stolen Generation,” Ms Ruff said.

Since its conception, the 40,000 years mural has been a fundamental part of Redfern’s history. The Indigenous community has a long affinity with Redfern and The Block, which is around the corner from the Lawson St mural.

“The locals used to stand out the front of the corner pub and call out to anyone from out of town who lingered near the mural,” Ms Ruff said.

“They used to shout things like ‘hey that’s our mural’ out of pride for the wall.”

The movement to restore the fading images began earlier this year with the Redfern Station Community Group (RSCG).

Desley Haas, organiser of RSCG, said the  aim is to create two new murals on Gibbons St and at Redfern Station’s platform ten.

“The plan for the Lawson St mural is to have it painted on panels in a location off-site so as to ensure sustainability,” she said.