'How The Sea Was Made' Indigenous sculpture unveiled at Nambucca Heads service centre

(Clockwise from top right) Annalisa Wilson, Francine Edwards and Denise Buchanan with their steel and stone sculpture: 'How the sea was made'.

(Clockwise from top right) Annalisa Wilson, Francine Edwards and Denise Buchanan with their steel and stone sculpture: 'How the sea was made'.

Visitors stopping in to fuel up can also now fill up on some local culture too.

Three local female artists have joined creative forces to design a striking new sculpture at the Nambucca Heads service centre, gifting a sense of identity to the nondescript exterior of the highway amenity.

Annalisa Wilson, Denise Buchanan and Francine Edwards have worked together for the last three months designing the sculpture which features one of the local Dreamtime creation songlines.

The artwork has been called How the Sea Was Made, and tells of two sisters who escaped the unwanted advances of a ‘cheeky man’, creating the sand and the sea of the Mid North Coast as they went before resting in the sky where the ‘Seven Sisters’ or Pleiades constellation is today.

LISTEN as the artists talk about the significance of their sculpture in their own words

The three-paneled steel and stone piece combines the vision and design elements of each of the three artists.

The proud Gumbaynggirr women have worked together before on another project for the Dialysis Unit, which they say led to them being tapped on the shoulder for this latest state government-commissioned artwork.


The women are multi-skilled artists, having previously painted some of the placards lining the fields at Coronation Park, designed pamphlets for the Darrimba Maarra Health Clinic, and taught felting workshops.

“I’ve had a lot of exhibitions down in Sydney and in Melbourne, and I’ve been up to Mornington Island teaching felting to the ladies up there,” Annalisa said.

“My art has taken me a lot of places already.”

But this was the first time that the three had ever tried their hands at creating a large-scale sculpture.

They rose to the challenge with the help of a fabricator, Steve Newton, who workshopped with the women, teaching them all there was to know about working with steel. 

“They just threw us in there. But as we worked with Steve it just all came out of us,” Annalisa said.

So far the reaction to the sculpture from the local community has been nothing but positive.

“The elders are all rapt, they’re still talking about it,” Annalisa said.

“And everyone is going out and getting selfies with it.

The women are hoping to have an official smoking ceremony and unveiling once the information plaque, which will accompany the sculpture, is installed. 

“We want people to know that this is a special place for Aboriginal people. And we want people to be welcome here, but also to respect our place and our culture,” Francine said.

“We feel so lucky to have such beautiful artwork in our own town...yeah being local women and having the opportunity to work on our land, it makes it more special.”

Annalisa has been an established artist for many years, but she sees this sculpture as the cornerstone of her legacy. 

“I’ve always wanted to do something big with my life and now I’ve done it,” Annalisa said.

“And it’s there for all of my grandkids to see in the future.

“I hope this inspires our younger generation to show their abilities to achieve their goals and dreams.”

The future is looking bright and busy for the three Nambucca Heads artists with plenty of upcoming projects to further leave their mark on their town.

As part of the Aboriginal art course at the Macksville TAFE, the three are working with teachers Paul Miller and Simone Atkins, and fellow students to paint the poles along Bowra street in Nambucca Heads.

The TAFE group has also been asked by council to adorn the Newville roundabout with their artwork.

The group welcomes newcomers and anyone interested in joining them should contact Jillian Ashley at the Macksville TAFE on 0407 142 293 or email jillian.ashley@tafensw.edu.au.