Art tells story of community

As a unifying design element to welcome the community, the original artwork 'The Campfire’ created by talented local artist and Noongar Ballardong woman Joanne Parfitt sits in pride of place in the recently opened Midland Head to Health centre in Perth’s east. 

4 Jul 2022

Joanne Parfitt 

Depicted in pastel shades and traditional patterns, Joanne says the painting tells the story of local Noongar Elders gathering around the campfire to talk, share stories and learn from each other.

“The campfire represents us and the place where we yarn about everything,” Joanne says. “In our mob, we were taught many skills around the camp fire by our elders, including storytelling, healing, hunting and animal tracking.

“Each tribe would sit in small groups, looking over the horizon talking around the campfire and were given a message stick so they knew where to go next.”

The story of community and gathering together is reflective of the vision for Midland Head to Health as a place for people seeking mental health support to be heard and understood in their community. 

Inspired by local Noongar knowledge

Joanne, who first learned painting skills from her parents and has made art for 28 years, drew inspiration from childhood memories, bush tucker and the country around the local City of Swan area for this piece.

She has also incorporated other elements of local Noongar knowledge and culture into the artwork.

“My painting represents many things, including different types of animal tracks, the women dancing around the Derbarl Yerrigan, known today as the Swan River, and the long neck turtles that were used for food and medicine,” Joanne says. 

“The footprints represent the Elders who would come from different tribes and directions to join the Corrobboree, where they would dance into the night.”

Creating a safe spaceMidland Head to Health

Midland Head to Health Manager Ruth Lawrence says the artwork not only tells an important story, but helps evoke positive feelings of peace, connection and emotional safety. 

“Making sure that the design of the centre celebrates its place in the Midland community has been very important,” Ruth says. 

“As part of this, it was deeply important to us that parts of the centre’s design, including this artwork, reflected the rich Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area.”

Operating Midland Head to Health contributes to St John of God Health Care’s mental health strategy, which seeks to expand services in response to community need and design services with a strong person-centred philosophy to provide a better experience for mental health consumers.

More about Midland Head to Health.