• The artwork appears as part of The Yarra Tram's $1m Community Partnerships Program. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
An Indigenous art initiative is supporting men and women in prisons and post-release in Victoria.
Eliza Berlage

12 Jul 2019 - 7:41 AM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2019 - 2:14 PM

The work of two Aboriginal artists from an Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Program will feature on the outside of trams across Melbourne for the next three months.

Since 2011, The Torch program has provided cultural and arts vocational support for Indigenous men and women in prisons and post-release in Victoria.

For Ngiyampaa woman Kim Kennedy, participating in the program has been key to her financial security.

“I am proud of telling my story, when I got out I had nothing,” she said. “That money I made from The Torch selling my paintings helped me set up my house.”

In her work, 4 Rivers, Ms Kennedy – from south-west New South Wales – paints about traditional ways of living and belonging to Country.

Her tram wrap design depicts the river systems of Victoria and NSW and calls attention to their importance in supporting healthy aquatic life, community and culture.

Jeffery Jackson, a Mutti Mutti man also painted about his relationship to Country, particularly the area of Lake Mungo, Yanga and Robinvale.

Mr Jackson’s previous work has sold to significant private collectors, and the likes of the Victorian Ombudsman, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and Monash University.

He described his tram wrap design as being "about what is not seen, about the old people and the ancient knowledge they held about where water could be found in this ever-changing dry environment.”

“Even though Lake Mungo is a dry lake, it is constantly changing,” Jackson said. “When the wind blows, the sand hills change shape and the designs in the sand change with the sand moving as if it is alive.”

The initiative also provided the opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of Indigenous over-representation in incarceration rates across Australia.

Appearing alongside the artwork on the trams are statistics that reveal First Nations men are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous men, while First Nations women are 21 times more likely to be imprisoned.

Public health experts attribute the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women, and children in Australian prisons to a range of persistent social issues impacting Indigenous lives today.

Encouraging discussion about Indigenous incarceration is one part of the purpose of publicly showcasing art from The Torch’s participants.

The artwork appears as part of The Yarra Trams Community Partnerships Program which awards $1 million in free advertising to organisations making a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in Melbourne.

The trams, featuring Jackson and Kennedy’s artwork, can be seen travelling on Route 109 between Box Hill and Port Melbourne and Route 48 between North Balwyn and Victoria Harbour Docklands.

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