IF you want to see the changing face of Australia, Mirrabooka might be a good place to start.
In 2011, the northern suburb was ranked the 13th most diverse place in Australia, after waves of immigrants made the area their home.
Now, an iconic mural in the area is being given a new lease of life to reflect the changing faces of the suburb.
“We have 15 different nationalities on the wall,” artist Steve Cross said. “This community is way more multicultural than anything I have experienced anywhere to be honest. There is a large element of pride. People have come and picked out people from their culture just from their picture on the wall. We even have some kids here from Syria who have just escaped from there eight months ago.”
Cross and fellow artist Michael Barker first painted the mural on the corner of Yirrigan Drive and Sudbury Road 25 years ago. They depicted a number of indigenous and Caucasian people from the local community. A quarter of a century on, their scope has changed.
Called Shaping the Future, the mural now depicts the faces of ethnically diverse young people from the local community. Front and centre, however, is local Aboriginal elder Doolan Leisha-Eatts.
“It reminds people that this area is as diverse as it is and I think by putting Doolan in the centre of the wall I think it makes the statement that she’s the original landowner and you still have to remember an element of the past,” Cross said.
“When she first moved here it was bush and you could see kangaroos in the paddocks and bushland. It was pretty rural to some extent, it’s clearly different nowadays.”
The artists have attempted to incorporate parts of the original mural, including a portrait of Josh — now in his mid-20s and a lawyer — who was painted as a baby in the original.
“You don’t have to be born in Australia to be Australian but you have to have Australia in you, and Mirrabooka is that,” Mirrabooka MLA Janine Freeman said.
Ms Freeman has spent years sourcing funding and raising support to save the mural. She said that over time, the artwork became a local landmark but the wall it was on also fell into disrepair. Ms Freeman campaigned for the Housing Department that owns the wall, to retain the mural, arguing its value to the community should not be overlooked.
“Heritage is not just in Perth, it’s not just in Fremantle,” Ms Freeman said. “Heritage is in Mirrabooka as well.”
You have to have Australia in you, and Mirrabooka is that.
Originally published as How Mirrabooka is shaping the future