Renowned Artist Unveils Bespoke Work for NAIDOC Week

Media Release
July 8, 2021

Townsville Torres Strait Islander artist Gail Mabo today unveiled a bespoke piece of art to be installed on the façade at Mater Private Hospital Townsville (MPHT) in recognition of the traditions and culture of the First Nations people of North Queensland. (Pictured: Paynters team members Stan Huen and Grant Marshall with Artist Gail Mabo).

The two-panel acrylic on canvas painting will be converted into a large-scale artwork piece that will be mounted to the exterior of the new six-storey car park currently under construction at MPHT.

The original painting will be installed inside the hospital alongside the story that inspired the artwork.

Gail Mabo, a Merium woman from Mer Island in the Torres Strait Islands, is an acclaimed artist and dancer, and is the daughter of community leader and land rights advocate, Eddie Koiki Mabo who moved to Townsville in 1959.

The artwork was officially unveiled at a NAIDOC Week celebration staged at MPHT Pimlico campus.  Local elders were invited to share stories and the principal contractor, Paynters, hosted a morning tea of indigenous-inspired dishes, including handmade damper, for hospital staff, construction workers and community leaders.

Ms Mabo said the painting reflected the importance of connection to country.

“It acknowledges the four different clans around Townsville, including the Gurambilburra Wulgurukaba, Bindal, Nywaigi, and Gugu Badhun People,” she said.

“The painting also reflects the spirits of this land as well as the blue and earthy tones of this region. We believe that when people know the story of place, they can own the space.”

MPHT Executive Officer Libbie Linley said this year’s NAIDOC Week (July 4 – 11) provided the perfect opportunity to reveal the bespoke artwork.

“The theme for NAIDOC Week is Heal Country! which is about embracing the cultural knowledge and understanding of the land as part of Australia’s national heritage,” Ms Linley said.

“I am extremely proud to be partnering with such a renowned artist to bring the story of this country and its traditional owners to life here at Mater Townsville.”

Stage 2 of MPHT’s Master Plan will provide more than 400 parking spaces and much needed infrastructure to improve safety and services at the Pimlico campus.

Construction of the car park is supported by a $19.75m loan from the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and is expected to be operational by mid-2022.

Paynters Director and North Queensland Manager, Michael Koen, said the painting would be converted to a digital format and then recreated on the façade of the building.

Mr Koen said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were also part of the project’s construction team with job opportunities for 11 indigenous apprentices over its lifetime.

“Paynters has a proud record of indigenous employment,” he said. “In addition to our apprentices, we have also committed to 10 indigenous school-based trainees and work experience students for this project.”

Work on the car park started in March this year and follows the completion in 2020 of the $52m Mercy Centre, a custom-built day surgery that has improved healthcare services for patients and doctors in the region.

Ms Linley said Stage 2 of the Master Plan had an estimated public benefit of $7.6m, including 12 full time jobs and opportunities for up to 700 sub-contractors over the course of its construction.

“The carpark project will enable MPHT to grow and transform so we can continue to meet the changing healthcare needs of the Townsville community,” she said.

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