A firefighting appliance and two DFES vehicles featuring the artwork of local Indigenous artist Stephen Taylor were unveiled today at the Bunbury Fire Station, as part of a project delivered by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ (DFES) Aboriginal Advancement Unit (AAU).
Stephen was selected by the Wardandi Bibbulmun Elders from the local Aboriginal community to paint the artwork that has been fixed to the vehicles. It features a landscape and vegetation that is native to the Wardandi Country and a fire mitigation message ‘Caring for Country is a shared responsibility’ is written in both the Noongar language and English on the side of the vehicles.
Other initiatives that the AAU has delivered in the region include cultural governance training for DFES’ South West office staff, volunteers and career firefighters at Bunbury Fire Station, which has established a solid and enriching relationship with the local Aboriginal community.
The cultural awareness sessions also included opportunities for reciprocated visits between the Wardandi Bibbulmun Elders to the DFES offices and Bunbury Fire Station and the DFES staff and firefighters to the Goomburrup Aboriginal Corporation offices.
The success of the project has been particularly fulfilling for Trish Wall who manages the AAU and was born in Wardandi Country.
“As a child of the stolen generation it has been quite an emotional journey because it is about coming home for me,” Trish said. “It has been difficult but to be really and truly accepted in country has made the journey very worthwhile.
“I am really proud to see this project come to fruition because it has taken a lot of planning, meeting with the Elders and educating the DFES staff on our culture and the importance of respecting the ways and traditions of the Aboriginal community.
“The DFES staff in the South West region have really embraced the opportunity to build the relationship with the Aboriginal community and we look forward to introducing the Cultural Awareness Training to other regions.”
The project has been a success in developing and cementing a strong partnership between DFES and the Wardandi Bibbulmun Elders and their community, and the initiative will now be rolled out in other regions.
Strengthening ties with the community has also enabled DFES to meet with the Goomburrup Mens and Womens Groups to discuss volunteering opportunities and the pathways available for careers in emergency services.
DFES Superintendent South West Peter Norman said the Cultural Governance Training and Kaarla Artwork Project has been a valuable and rewarding initiative in the region.
“It has been an educational and important journey for the firefighters and DFES staff to learn about Aboriginal history, culture and the stolen generation,” he said.
“Building that connection with the Wardandi Bibbulmun Elders has improved the relationship and the community is more accepting of the uniform and what we do.
“We’ve also gained a lot of insight into why they burn the land and we will be able to work with them in the future to share information and reduce the risk.
“The fire appliance and vehicles look fantastic and when they are visible in the community it will create interest and a sense of inclusion for the entire greater Bunbury community, local Aboriginal groups and emergency services.”