What Bird is That? Mural Restoration

(2.30pm 31 March 2012, Nickson Street Surry Hills)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the launch of this much-loved restored mural.

I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our wonderful City.

A special welcome today to Peter Day who first created this mural over 30 years ago - with the help of 30 local residents - and who has developed the design of the refurbished mural, once again with local input.

Back in the 1980s, the Neighbourhood Information and Action Centre commissioned the mural, with some help from Council. Overwhelmingly, the residents of Nickson and Edgely Streets said they wanted to see as bush scene painted on the terrace end, as bush was so conspicuously missing from this environment.

It showed inner-city kids what the bush could be like, and some of the native birds they might see there. But then a few favourite pets crept into the picture as well - four dogs and a neighbourhood cat, to be exact.

Like all projects that spring from the heart of the community, the mural became a local landmark that retained a strong claim on people's affections, even as - over time - it inevitably deteriorated.

A few years ago, a resident approached the City asking us to restore the mural. Once again, we called on Peter Day to undertake a detailed assessment of the work and to talk with the local community about the proposed restoration.

Since the original was painted, the trees have grown and new windows have been inserted into the wall, and so a new scene has been devised to work with the changes.

Once again, Peter worked with the local community - about 40 people attended a meeting to talk about the new mural and offer their ideas for what it should contain.

In response to your suggestions, there are now 33 species of birds shown, including 12 laser-cut steel birds, three of which have been left unpainted to pose the question, "What bird is that?"

Research carried out by our Environmental staff shows that many native birds have disappeared from the area - lovely little birds like the silvereye, the fairy wren and the spotted pardalote shown here are in decline, if not actually disappeared.

And while rainbow lorikeets are still quite common, some of the other larger birds are also in decline.

We hope their depiction here, will help promote the planting of more of the small native flowering shrubs which form their local habitat.

For our part, we are now preparing an Urban Ecology Strategy to identify and set priorities for habitat restoration, so that hopefully the less common species will once again become a familiar sight throughout the City.

So a very warm thank-you to Peter and to everyone who has contributed to the resurrection of this very engaging community centrepiece. It's a wonderful reminder of the tremendous richness of nature that we can have even in the midst of a dense and sometimes demanding city.

It's a great pleasure to declare it "open".