Aboriginal children at Bubup Wilam Early Learning Centre in Thomastown officially welcomed a new friend this week with the unveiling of a large echidna sculpture.
The children have affectionately named the sculpture Our Gawarn – Spikey (Gawarn meaning echidna in the woi wurrung language of the Wurundjeri tribe).
Whittlesea Director of Community Services Russell Hopkins said Spikey was donated to Council by renowned sculptor Des McKenna, who is the craftsman behind many artworks that are now exhibited in galleries around Australia and in overseas collections.
He said the large echidna was donated to Council in late 2016 by Des, who sadly passed away in December of that year.
Des’ wife Carmel and several of their sons Paddy, Paul and Michael attended a special ceremony at Bubup Wilam on Wednesday 18 April to unveil the sculpture.
Mr Hopkins said it was one of Des’ largest sculptures, carved from a huge tree trunk in one piece and weighs almost one tonne.
“The sculpture was previously housed and on display at Melbourne Museum, but due to refurbishment works at the museum it no longer fits in the allocated space and was gifted back to the artist,” he said.
“Des set about finding a new home for the sculpture and was very pleased that Bubup Wilam was able to house the sculpture in the foyer and protected from the weather.”
Spikey’s arrival has prompted Bubup Wilam staff to teach the children about echidnas and how the animal is a totem for some Aboriginal clans and tribal groups.