The vitality and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef is reflected in the Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, an iconic public artwork unveiled in Cairns yesterday (August 31).
The artwork is a symbol for Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, a social movement to engage the world in the future of the World Heritage area.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chief Executive Officer Pip Close said Cairns Indigenous artist Brian Robinson created a 6 metre-high and 11 metre-wide helix depicting a wave of marine creatures and birds led by a life-size stingray to reflect the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef.
“Framing the view to the Reef from the Cairns Esplanade, the Citizens Gateway will inspire those who walk beneath it and see their reflection in its mirror-polish stainless steel to think about their connection to the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.
“Stretching for 2300km along the Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef is central to the life and livelihoods of many Queenslanders, and as a barometer of the health of our planet its future should be important to people around the world.”
Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef was captured in the outstanding piece of art, which would also capture the imagination of people around the world encouraging them to visit this incredible marine wonderland.
“The Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef will act as a window for Tropical North Queensland to showcase the world's best-managed Reef and propel what we're doing globally through people sharing images of this artwork and their reef experiences on social media,” Mr Entsch said.
“I'm confident this will boost interest in our natural wonder, which in turn will help grow tourism jobs, cement our scientific reputation in water quality and reef health expertise, and secure a vibrant and economically strong future for Far North Queensland.”
Queensland Premier and Arts Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said: “The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's most important natural treasures and I congratulate sculptor Brian Robinson on creating a powerful representation of its beauty and ecological diversity.
“Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef is a significant artwork that adds to the excitement and vibrancy of Cairns as a centre for regional arts and cultural tourism. It also celebrates Cairns' reputation as a world-renowned launching point to the wonders of the Reef and an international destination.
“My Government is proud to be a funding partner in the Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef sculpture project as part of our commitment to protecting the Reef for current and future generations.”
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said the artwork would become an iconic landmark in Cairns, adding to the visitor experience along the Cairns Esplanade, which is enjoyed by more than 1.2 million people every year.
“Our city has an intimate connection with the Great Barrier Reef and the Gateway sculpture celebrates this,” Cr Manning said.
“The lagoon's woven fish sculptures – also designed by Brian Robinson – have become one of our most loved and recognisable features. This new piece brings another spectacular photo opportunity to our amazing foreshore.”
Ports North Chair Russell Beer said Ports North was proud to support the Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef initiative as a key partner of the Tropical North Queensland tourism industry.
“We manage the Port of Cairns, which is home to the greatest number of Great Barrier Reef operators in Queensland, and are passionate about our responsibility to protect this World Heritage area for future generations,” he said.
Artist Brian Robinson said the Citizens Gateway reflected his Indigenous heritage demonstrating the Great Barrier Reef's connection to the culture of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The stingray is my family totem from my mother's people, the Wuthathi from Shelburne Bay,” he said.
“Adding to its aesthetics are marks drawing on the carving traditions of the Torres Strait, the distinctive graphic style with origins in Melanesian artistry, in the rhythmical forms of pattern and dance.
“Stingrays capture the spirit of the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef as they glide over the Reef without touching the coral, just as humankind should not touch the Reef.
“Six local Aboriginal artists from the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people and the Yirrganydji people have created stingray designs which are sandblasted into the ground plane of the artwork to convey the unique cultural life and expression of Tropical North Queensland and the significance of the Reef and oceans to these people.
“The significance of the surrounding environment for local Aboriginal people is bound to the spiritual origins of the landscape and their creation stories which includes the sea and its flora and fauna.
“The Aboriginal people who live in the Great Barrier Reef region express a strong and continuing sense of custodianship and responsibility for their country that comes with obligations defined by custom and tradition.”
The artwork has involved collaboration with local Traditional Owners the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji and the Yirrganydji people, artist Brian Robinson, Tourism Tropical North Queensland, the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, curators and project managers CREATIVEMOVE, Cairns Regional Council, fabricators UAP and site designer Total Project Group Architects.
It was made possible by the support of the Australian Government through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Cairns Regional Council, the Queensland Government through the Embracing 2018 Public Domain Improvement Program, the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland's Backing Indigenous Arts Initiative and Ports North, manager of the Port of Cairns.
Spearheaded by Earth Hour founder Andy Ridley, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef aims to create a worldwide community of Citizens dedicated to taking tangible actions to secure the future of the Reef and the planet. Become an active Citizen at CitizensGBR.org.
Copyright: Tourism Tropical North Queensland
Contact: Liz Inglis - Communications Consultant