Indigenous artist transforms ANZAC Day in Beaudesert

Lani Pauli 19 April 2021

As communities across Australia lit up the dawn last year, Beaudesert residents found a new spirit of remembrance thanks to a local indigenous artist.

Kim Williams, a proud Kullilli-Wakka-Wakka woman, has been a practising contemporary artist for more than 40 years. And it was her creativity that saw power poles in the front yards of local veterans turned into one-of-a-kind artworks.

“I think that Beaudesert was the only place in Australia that had all these poles decorated,” she says.

“I thought I’d ask my local energy provider if I could paint the electricity pole outside my driveway and I was given approval."

Indigenous artist Kim Williams with one of her commemorative ANZAC Day power poles

What started with one pole outside her own home transformed into Kim painting 15 poles in 16 days for local veterans. She says the Beaudesert community was behind her at every step.

“This was for all our veterans who have sacrificed for us. They gave up their freedom and this was to give them somewhere they could remember and share the day with loved ones.

“As a mother of six boys myself and a grandmother, I can imagine looking back on this in 10 years’ time with them and know that I gave back to my community,” she says.

“And I hope that they will remember that someone thought of the veterans and gave them somewhere to go for ANZAC Day instead of being at home on their own.”

A PRACTICE TO HONOUR INDIGENOUS IDENTITY

Living and working in Mununjali country, Kim says her creative practice and this project were important demonstrations of indigenous identity.

“It was important as I was painting the poles that I am an Aboriginal woman and I’m painting these not only for my Aboriginal and Islander people but for the whole of Australia to recognise that they all went to war to sacrifice their lives for our land,” she says.

One of indigenous artist Kim Williams' commemorative ANZAC Day power poles in Beaudesert

“ANZAC Day for me is important because of my grandparents, my grandfathers, and on my husband’s side, all the uncles and aunties who all went to war at a very young age to fight for freedom and their country, their land.”

A TRADITION PASSED DOWN FROM GRANDMOTHER TO GRANDCHILD

For Kim and her family, ANZAC Day holds significant meaning.

“We come from a family that has served in the Army and my husband and I have taken our children to ANZAC Day commemorations and now we’re doing it with our grandchildren. Handing the tradition down to them,” she says.

“It’s important to my husband and I that they know the history. And that when we’ve gone, they will be carrying it on with their children, and then their children.

“Like many indigenous families, military service is something of a tradition, coming from a long line of warriors. Around 10 years ago when the black Diggers started being recognised, my nephew played the didgeridoo at a Dawn Service,” Kim shares.

“To hear the echo of a didgeridoo in the background with the sun coming up was amazing. Also the eeriest, sacred thing you could ever hear.

“You think of your grandparents, the nurses, everyone who went to war. It gives me goosebumps thinking of it. And if you ever get to go to one where there’s a didgeridoo playing in the background, it’s a beautiful feeling.”