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City West Water partners with Indigenous artists to tell water stories

City West Water has collaborated with Indigenous artists to transform plain, often graffitied electrical cabinets into pieces of public art.

The Melbourne utility worked with three artists from SALT Studio, who used boxes in Footscray, Yarraville, Essendon, Clifton Hill and Sunshine to share their stories with the wider community. 

Each artwork features a ‘water warrior’ who delivers a different message about important themes in Aboriginal culture: water, trees, ceremony, community and totem.

“For First Nations people, the sharing of culture and lore is traditionally passed on through song, dance, art and creation stories,” a statement on City West Water’s website said.

“It has become somewhat standard practice for asset owners to transform unremarkable, often ugly, cabinets into art.

A cabinet in Essendon shows the value of Ceremony in First Nations culture. Image: City West Water

“At City West Water we thought we could take this practise a step further into the win-win territory and use the space to specifically showcase First Nations art.”

The boxes each took a day to paint using a mixture of techniques including spray painting and traditional brushes. 

First Nations artist Terori Hareko-Avaivilla said the water warriors conveyed a significant message. 

“It’s a homage to women who fight for land, water rights and water protection,” she said.

“In Yarraville, she’s holding onto the roots of the trees, signifying the importance of our trees.

“The last box in Clifton Hill introduces her with a child, to show how she transmits her knowledge onto the next generation about that possession of land and water for the community.”