Friday, August 2, 2013


I surprised myself by how upset I felt on finding out that Bunjil is to be moved to make way for Lend Lease’s new development at Docklands – the last remaining uncontracted parcel of land in the Batmans Hill precinct.
In the restless landscape that is Docklands where place has been made and re-made, there is something about Bunjil’s steady presence that is reassuring – it is at once full of gravitas and lightness. And the way he looks over everything. 'Batmans Hill' itself disappeared in the 19th century to make way for the railway.
I set out on this wintry afternoon to pay my respects. I wanted to make a point of looking at Bunjil intentionally rather than just in passing as I usually do – on the train or in a car. From the elevation of the Collins St extension, I looked directly at Bunjil - or did he look at me? - and the sun came out briefly to illuminate the whiteness.

Then I sought to view the the sculpture at ground level. This proved more difficult. That part of Docklands is mighty confusing for walking - the only people who seemed to be out and about in the cold ground level underworld were smokers.  Wurrundjeri Way itself makes no provision for pedestrians – which is perhaps just as well because it is such a high speed environment, but it was very hard to get close.  

As I rode away, on the basis of the experience I had just had, I could see that it might be good for Bunjil to be moved to a more accessible place but may it be a place where he can still look over us.
The order of proceedings seemed quite wrong. Acknowledgement of our indigenous history and traditional owners is not a casual matter to be put aside when its inconvenient, but central to our having any meaningful sense of place and belonging. 
Bruce Armstrong's work, in place since 2002, was commissioned as part of Docklands public art program, under which an amount equal to 1 per cent of the development cost of each precinct is spent on public art.
Will such a scheme be put in place for Fishermans Bend so that public art can create meaning and uplifting public experiences.
It would be good to see an equivalent opportunity for public contribution to the Flinders St Station redevelopment on the sensitive relocation of this artwork.