Parramatta River flows to life set for new Westmead hospital

Contemporary Indigenous artist Danie Mellor’s affinity with natural landscapes and a love of storytelling combine in a stunning mural to be delivered as part of the Westmead Redevelopment’s Arts and Culture Strategy.

The Queensland-born creative dynamo is among a small group of artists hand-picked to roll out 14 works themed around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, healing, nature, community, engagement and diversity.

The pieces will find a home in the redevelopment’s new hospital building, a 14-storey facility to be occupied by Westmead Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and The University of Sydney as part of the $1 billion project.

Mellor’s epic 60m-long, three-metre high mural, entitled The River, depicts a stretch of the Parramatta River, the local Darug people’s unique relationship with it, and the importance of the river to all cultures.

Created with infrared photography and comprising 41 individual panels, The River will be installed along a walkway at the entrance of the new hospital building, continuing through to the University Clinics entrance at Westmead Hospital.  

“We worked along a stretch of the river from Toongabbie Creek to Parramatta Park – there was plenty of fascinating ecology there,” Mellor said.

“By using infrared photography – which exposes a light spectrum we don’t usually see – I’ve hinted at a history of this place that we don’t usually see,” he said. “The work is large, but you need a big space to unpack things.”

To that end, the artist worked closely with the Darug community, and spoke regularly with renowned Indigenous curator Matt Poll, a liaison between Aboriginal artists and traditional owners. Matt is also delivering Tools of Knowledge, one of the other endorsed projects.

Mellor has completed the photography portion of the artwork, with the digital files to be converted into laminated panels ahead of planned installation later in the year.

“Danie’s really understood the space he’s working in well,” said Carla Edwards who sits on the Westmead Redevelopment’s Arts and Culture Committee, charged with rolling out the program.

“It’s designed to be viewed both walking alongside the images, from the plaza forecourt and also from a seated viewpoint.

The River is one of two artworks where the creative component is now completed, with the other being The Night Sky, which we’re also terribly excited about.”

For more on the Westmead Redevelopment’s Arts and Culture Strategy, go to


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