University celebrates local wildlife and landscape in Goulburn Valley art project

The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences has sponsored two murals in Goorambat, a town between Dookie and Benalla in the Goulburn Valley, as part of an art project celebrating the local environment and heritage.

Ros Gall, Director of the University’s Dookie campus, attended the official celebration of the launch of the silo paintings with the Goorambat community and Healesville Sanctuary on Saturday 8 April.

“The University is a big supporter of the arts and this was a unique opportunity to combine the arts with agriculture and contribute to a local community,” Ms Gall said.

Professor John Fazakerley, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, said he was very pleased the Faculty sponsored this project.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the result. The two silos look terrific, the painting is beautifully done, it’s colourful, dramatic and works really well with the curves of the buildings, their mass and the site.

“It’s not only in keeping with the landscape but also with the work of the University.”

Painted by Jimmy Dvate, the murals depict a bright-eyed barking owl from Healesville Sanctuary named Millibai and a landscape typical of the area around the Dookie campus.

Millibai, a barking owl at Healesville Sanctuary, provided the artist with inspiration. Photo: Cate Macnamara.

Dvate, a Melbourne-based artist and graphic designer with a background in street art, says he is passionate about conservation and was particularly keen to highlight the plight of endangered species.

He and his partner met Millibai when they took a trip to Healesville Sanctuary as part of his research for the project. The owl became Jimmy’s inspiration for the mural.

Millibai means “winking” in a local indigenous dialect; the species is also known as the winking owl. They are highly endangered, with fewer than 50 breeding pairs in the wild – many of which nest locally.

They prefer iron bark tree hollows, which are generally found on the edge of farmland, where they nest. They play an important role as predators of gliders, possums, rosellas and bats.

Millibai was bred in captivity at Featherdale Wildlife Park in New South Wales and was sent to Healesville Sanctuary at four-weeks-old where she was fed and cared for. The special owl has flown in the Sanctuary’s Spirits of the Sky show alongside their other barking owl Timba for the past ten years and will turn 13-years-old in August.

Dookie campus was founded in 1886 as Dookie College and played a key role in the development of agriculture and agricultural teaching and learning in Australia.

The second mural depicts a landscape typical of the area around the University of Melbourne's Dookie campus. Photo: Cate Macnamara.

Situated on 2,440 hectares the campus includes a small community which houses students and teaching staff, merino sheep, an orchard, a robotic dairy, a winery and a natural bush reserve. It remains a focal point for the key research, teaching and technology development that is helping to shape the future of agriculture in Australia.

Professor Fazakerley said that the two pictures can be taken to represent the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences’ School of Agriculture and Food and the Melbourne Veterinary School, and their engagement with the land, wildlife and our communities.

“The barking owl is endangered in Victoria and provides a symbol of the work the Melbourne Veterinary School does with wildlife while the crops, agricultural machinery, farmstead and windmill remind us of the University’s long and proud history in agriculture, which is today entering a new and exciting era with rising student enrolments and strong research and engagement,” he said.

Story by Amanda Tan. Banner image: Cate Macnamara.