Aboriginal artwork brings electrical boxes to life

mandi, Citipower
Mandi Barton

Three metal boxes used to house electricity infrastructure beneath the Bolte Bridge have become the huge canvas of respected indigenous artist Mandi Barton, who has created a new artwork depicting the history of the Moonee Ponds Creek.

As part of a partnership between CitiPower and the City of Melbourne, Ms Barton has created a bold and striking depiction of the past, present and future of the creek, which runs alongside the three boxes, near CitiPower’s Dock Area zone substation.

The artwork has been completed as part of CitiPower’s $4.5 million upgrade of power supplies for the Port of Melbourne, as part of ongoing works to facilitate construction of the West Gate Tunnel project. 

Ms Barton said the artwork represented how the creek had changed over time and what the creek meant to communities.

“The first box represents how it was, when different tribes would come here to fish, catch eels, trade and barter,” Ms Barton said. 

“The next one is how it is now, a much smaller creek with a lot more buildings, roads and other infrastructure. The third box represents a future where the creek has been revitalised and recovered almost to how it was, getting bigger, and how people will be connecting to the creek in the future with their families.” 

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The artist describes all her artwork as being about “telling stories, connecting people and helping all people feel safer in spaces.” 

The major power upgrade began in 2019 and includes the installation of a permanent back-up supply cable from the West Gate Zone Substation in Fishermans Bend, along Turner Street, Graham Street, Lorimer Street, Docklands Drive and under the Yarra River, to supply the Port of Melbourne. The work involved installing almost a kilometre of new cable below the Bolte Bridge and cables under both the Yarra River and Moonee Ponds Creek.

CitiPower project manager Bill Scott said artwork not only looked great, but also served a practical purpose too. 

“It has been an exciting process to be part of, working with local artists to provide something which not only provides great visual impact and tells a story, but will also reduce the likelihood of graffiti on our assets,” Mr Scott said. 

“We now have a talking point for those passing the site rather than three plain boxes.” 

The City of Melbourne arranged an expression of interest to local artists in August last year, and five artists were shortlisted for the job from more than 40 entries.