Perched on Freshwater headland, a monumental public artwork signals an important message about the history of our nation and honours the world’s oldest living culture.

Northern Beaches Council is proud to unveil the landmark artwork by First Nations art and design studio mili mili, as part of the Coast Walk Public Art project. 

Led by artist and creative director Nicole Monks, mili mili have created a powerful tribute to the enduring tradition and historical significance of signal fires.

“Signal fires have been lit on headlands up and down the east coast by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years,” Ms Monks said.

Artist Nicole Monks

“They are part of a sophisticated system of communication passed down through the generations, serving as a message, serving as a warning, serving as a reminder.”

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins said the artwork takes pride of place on Freshwater Headland, signalling for all people to gather and pay tribute.

Signal Fire McKillop Park, Freshwater

 “When Cook sailed the Endeavour up the east coast of Australia in 1770, First Nations people strategically lit signal fires along the headlands, to convey a message and a warning,” Mayor Heins said.

“While the ship’s crew noted the smoke and fire, little did they know they were witnessing an emergency response in action.

 “Just as smoke served as a signal then, may this artwork serve as a signal for us to all come together and pay tribute to the traditional custodians of this land and the enduring, continuing culture of First Nations people.”

Artist Nicole Monks

 Council and mili mili engaged with local Aboriginal elders, cultural knowledge holders, the Aboriginal Heritage Office and community as part of their creative process. Through many walks and yarns on Country with local Aboriginal people, local knowledge has been incorporated into the final artwork.

mili mili also worked with local Aboriginal enterprise Bush to Bowl and Council’s bush regeneration teams to include endemic native plants into the surrounding landscape.

Artist Nicole Monks and Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins

The artwork is a key landmark on the 36km Coast Walk, stretching from Manly to Palm Beach. The Coast Walk connects some of Sydney’s most iconic beaches and surf breaks, ocean rock pools, aquatic reserves, surf lifesaving clubs, headlands, lagoons, archaeological sites, public artworks and places of significant culture heritage.

Location: 25 Lumsdaine Drive, Freshwater. 

For more information about the new artwork visit the Council website. 

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