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Partnerships forged through Waru artwork in Kalgoorlie
Friday 19 July 2019 – 5:00 PM

​A firefighting truck and an operational staff vehicle adorned with Aboriginal artwork depicting the natural flora and fauna of the region’s ancestral lands have been unveiled at a ceremony during NAIDOC Week in Kalgoorlie.

A traditional smoking ceremony was held and the Welcome to Country performed jointly by respected Aboriginal elders Uncle Aubrey Lynch and Uncle George Hayden.

The artwork was painted by a local artist from the Kurrawang community. He was selected by the elders in the community to paint the artwork of the Wangathara country landscape. The artwork features the words ‘Waru Kampangu’ and ‘Fire burning’ in both the Wongatha and English language on the side of the vehicles.

The unveiling of the vehicles is the culmination of almost a year of collaboration to build a strong partnership between DFES and Aboriginal communities in and around Kalgoorlie. 

DFES staff and career firefighters completed cultural governance training to better understand the history and traditions of the Aboriginal people which has helped in fostering stronger partnerships with the local community. Firefighters from all platoons were invited to Kurrawang for a lunch and a yarn with the community and while there they completed maintenance on the hydrants in the town. 

Superintendent Goldfields-Midlands Antony Sadler said the project has had a profound impact on DFES personnel and has helped them connect with and learn from the community.

“A key challenge for me as Superintendent is to develop the capability of the community to prepare, respond and recover from major incidents like bushfire and flooding,” Superintendent Sadler said. 

“I can’t do that with my small team of emergency services alone so we have been working to develop relationships with a wide network of community groups to help the community be better prepared.

“Completing Cultural Awareness training has been a valuable opportunity to gain a greater understanding and awareness of Aboriginal culture in the region. 

“The training encompassed understanding around the stolen generation and the impact of that as well as the cultural significance of fire and what it is used for. We value that knowledge of traditional burning in the region and will work with the community on mitigating the risk in the region.

“The artwork on the vehicles is a great representation of the relationships we’ve built and is unique to the country around the Goldfields so I think it’s going to be great for not only us but for the whole community to say this truck belongs to us.”

The DFES Aboriginal Advancement Unit (AAU) facilitated the meetings between local elders and DFES staff and career firefighters to develop stronger relationships between all parties.

The project has also paved the way for volunteering and career opportunities within emergency services through the Kurrawang Aboriginal Corporation and the Aboriginal Workforce Development Centre.

AAU Manager Trish Wall said it was inspiring to see the collaboration between the community and DFES to enable a solid partnership continuing into the future.

“The positive relationships that have been built recognise the part DFES plays in keeping the community safe and the importance of the valuable knowledge and culture of the communities in the Goldfields region,” Trish said.

“The artwork on the vehicles gives a real sense of ownership for the community and recognises the relationship they have helped build with DFES to keep the community safe.” 

This is the second region to participate in the project to implement cultural governance training and have their vehicles adorned with local artwork after the Kaarla Artwork was unveiled in Bunbury last year. The Kaarla artwork project was recognised with the Bronze Award for Best practice in collaboration between Government and Non Government organisations.