A Community Christmas Tree
This year, the Governor of Victoria held a reception at Government House to unveil the Victorian Community Christmas Tree. The first such event and one she hopes will become a calendar feature. The aim, to build community, and provide a safe, relaxed environment for people from all over Victoria to meet, chat, and get to know each other.
Each Victorian regional city and shire was invited to prepare a decorative ornament that best represents their local area. A booklet with pictures and an explanation of the decorations that arrived in time to be included was printed. Hopetoun Blue baubles were placed on the tree with the names of those cities and shires that didn’t submit their ornaments by the deadline so no place was excluded.
Some people brought ornaments on the night, and others will continue to be placed on the tree as they arrive, between now and Christmas . The Governor placed a handmade ornament by a local artist on the tree after a short welcome speech. It featured an inked sketch of Government House and the message of ‘Peace and Prosperity’ to all.
As Kingston’s Citizen of the Year 2016, the Council asked me to attend. Of course, I accepted even although, in my heart, I’m a republican! Charlie Mizzi, last year’s Citizen of the Year and his wife Gael were familiar faces, along with Meesha Salaria who is Deputy Junior Mayor this year, and her mother. I met Meesha when I spoke at Cheltenham Library earlier this year.
The booklets with details of the ornaments weren’t available until near the end of the evening. There was a glitch with the Government House photocopier an aide said. It’s nice to know even Government House has a problem with photocopiers – the bane of my life – I work in three different community houses with three different photocopiers of varying quality, and three different codes to remember! I know all about ‘glitches’.
Along with my fellow Kingston representatives, I spent a good half hour examining all the decorations trying to find the one Kingston Council sent – all we knew was it had been produced on the 3D printer at Cheltenham Library!
I guess it being a ‘first-time’ event no one was quite sure what to expect or what to do.
Young eyes succeeded where old eyes failed – Meesha spotted the Kingston logo on the leaves attached to 3 red balls, representing holly, a traditional Christmas symbol. The words ‘beach’, ‘park’, and ‘my home’ glittered and sparkled on the balls.
Later, when I checked the booklet there was no explanation of Kingston’s ornament just a note “Merry Christmas from the City of Kingston”.
However, if you want to know more about what our city is like download Mordialloc Writers’ free e-book Kingston My City!
Many of the other decorations make a strong statement about their community. If this event becomes a Christmas ritual for Victoria, I can see an artistic or historical exhibition in the future for these ornaments.
Most were works of art with a story attached.
Some community leaders took advantage of the golden opportunity to showcase local artists and groups. Ornaments represented what districts are known for and shared historical information.
Some were spectacular!
Of the 43 in the booklet that I could identify it was easy to choose favourites. A few representatives from the various geographical areas had in-depth knowledge of their ornament and were proud to share information. The friendly buzz of conversation around the Christmas tree exactly what the Governor hoped as guests searched for ornaments, or added ones they’d been too late to send.
I was impressed with the thought put into some of the decorations with councils proud of being a diverse, multicultural society with indigenous heritage. The Christmas Tree an ideal symbol to celebrate life. Many who celebrate Christmas as part of their culture and/or religion gather around a tree to exchange greetings and gifts and this custom has been adopted or accepted by those who are not Christian.
Some councils and shires sent mayors and councillors as their representatives, others sent citizens. Some councils and shires commissioned artists to make the ornaments, others ran competitions in the community or schools or asked community groups; others had council employees or committees provide the decoration.
A Sample of Decorations
The original reason for the Cast Off Craft was to bring socially isolated women together under the excuse of craft. This was initially after the Black Saturday Bushfires, but the group wanted to be inclusive of all women, and not defined by that event.
The reason we chose the Golden Sun Moth and Mount Piper was the matching symbology between our group and these two magnificent objects from our community – Mitchell Shire.
Mt Piper stands alone, isolated from other mountain ranges, strong and stunning, but it is accessible – via walking track to the summit. It looks over our community.
The sun moth is delicate and rare, something that needs to be looked after and appreciated for its part in our local ecosystem – even the smallest contributor has value.
The gum nuts and leaves are reflective of our landscape and flora, and their silver reminds us of the beautiful, resilient and remarkable nature of our community.
The City of Whitehorse delighted to provide a hand-cut paper decoration which represents the sights and sounds that encapsulate the multiculturalism, flavours and heritage of the City of Whitehorse.
I had a lovely conversation with Helene (‘please pronounce it Helen because the other way sounds too posh!’) from Mitcham about the importance of neighbourhood houses cultivating community and encouraging wellbeing. When I said I grew up at Croydon she recommended Magda Szubanski’s book Reckoning, which had ‘heaps’ about growing up in Croydon. It is now on my Christmas wishlist.
We have selected a small brass gold pan stamped with the Eureka Flag. The pan is a symbol of Ballarat’s significant association with the Victorian gold rush, which started when gold was discovered at Poverty Point on 18 August 1851.
Ballarat quickly transformed into a major gold rush boom town with over 20,000 people moving to live on the diggings during this time.
The Eureka flag is also associated with this area and represents the Eureka Rebellion that took place on 3 December 1854. The battle of Eureka was fought between the colonial forces of Australia and miners objecting to the cost of a miner’s licence and the actions of the police and military on the gold fields.
The flag became a symbol of the rebellion and has become a national symbol of democracy in Australia.
Made by Suzanna Connely, ‘The Koorie Garden’ is a representation of the Mallee scrub. The feathers, eggs and seeds are brought from commercial farms and the trees are rescued from wood chipping.
From Golden Plains Shire, these Christmas pieces speka to the joy, colour and warmth of the festive season and feature the natural charcateristics of the municipality.
The characteristics of both the Christmas present and the Christmas tree art pieces are predominantly the golden wheat and canola paddocks, vaious fodder crops, winery vinyards, sheep and the golden sun across the plains.
The Monash men’s Shed is located in one of Monash council’s bushland parks, Bogong reserve in Glen Waverley. The ornament created by a Monash Men’s Shed member was inspired by the garden city landscape of Monash.
The ornament is also a reminder of the beautiful setting of the Monash Carols by Candlelight. This annual event is held amongst the gumtrees of Jells Park and attended by thousands of members of our culturally rich and diverse communities.
The City of Greater Geelong commissioned Geelong-based fibre artist, heather Frizzell to create an Orange-Bellied Parrot in flight as the ornament for the Government House Christmas Tree.
With around 30 to 40 left in the wild, the bird found in Geelong and the Bellarine region has been recognised as critically endangered and is protected under the Environemnt Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).
Brighton’s iconic Bathing Boxes are one of the most celebrated and recognised locations in Melbourne. The Bathing Boxes feature in both national and international marketing campaigns for the State of Victoria and are Bayside’s most visited tourist location.
This decoration is a whimsical, ‘beachy’ take on Christmas that employs images that are as iconic to Australian culture as the Bathing Boxes are to Bayside.
The artwork on the Christmas bauble is of a mural designed and painted by local Aboriginal artists and youths as part of a graffiti prevention project.
The mural shows stories from the Gunai Kurnai people, traditional custodians of part of East Gippsland. A dingo and Bogong moth make the journey from the mountain to the seas. A journey also taken by the Gurnai Kurnai people.
The mural can be seen in ‘real life’ in Bairnsdale’s CBD.
PS. When I spoke to a councillor, he said a local woodturner made and polished the ornament from local wood.
This beautifully hand-crafted decoration was created by artists Viktor kalinowski and Elaine Rieger, and was inspired by a local native grass called bidgee-widgee.
It is made of 40 individual pieces of anodised silver and aluminium, which represent the 40 townships that make up Cardinia Shire.
Artist Jo Malham from Donald:
Dry drought summer,
Autumn seeds, sown in hope,
Wet winter, flooded land,
Rich harvest reaped.
PS. An artist and a poet – how lovely.
Created by the Lentara UnitingCare Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre. It was inspired by Simon Perry’s ‘Monument of Free Speech’ sculpture located outside the Brunswick Mechanics Institute.
The bird cage ornament was constructed using diver wire and crystals which sparkle as a symbol of hope for the future. the silver base was cut and engraved by local jeweller NB Jewel Masters of Coburg.
The bird cage is open and the birds have flown free, leaving behind only a small feather.
The idea of the cage resonated with the people who visit the Welcome Centre. These people are at various stages of rebuilding their lives, which have been devastated by conflict and oppression.
On the way into Government House, I walked behind Taj and his mother and offered to take a photograph of the pair of them in front of the building. Taj was Moreland’s Junior Citizen of the Year for his work on behalf of Asylum Seekers. His proud Mum involved in the environmental movement with their home open during Sustainability House Week. Taj wants to be an architect and has won a scholarship to Ivanhoe Grammar.
Talking with Taj you believe the future will be in safe hands! Here he is with Moreland’s other citizen representatives who made the most of the occasion.
This ornament is decorated with patterns taken from a series of workshops held within the municipality where community members were encouraged to explore their cultural identity through textiles.
From representation of traditional dress to cultural celebrations, the etched images reflect individual fragments of fabric and pattern. these patterns combine to form an intricate layering, which highlights the diversity of our community.
Our ornament was made and designed by the Corangamite Youth Council. It is a symbol of our community’s strong connection to and proud history of agriculture and dairy farming. It represents the diversity of our region from the grain and sheep farms in the Western Districts to the beautiful beaches around the Great Ocean Road.
It shows our pride in our youth and the hope we have for the future, while celebrating our history through the historic clock tower in the centre of Camperdown, our largest town.
Made by local artist Madeleine Grummet using recycled materials from council’s Arts and Cutlure program.
PS. As one of my employers – I teach at Godfrey Street and also facilitate an ABI group – I looked out for Glen Eira’s ornament too but their description didn’t explain why they chose the design.
Students talked about the trees in shopping centres and stores, which were for sale roadside and the decorations throughout the Valley. They also spoke of the ‘giving trees’ at shopping centres. Sadly, some of our students experience hardship and trauma and stated the importance of this Christmas icon as they did not have one at home.
This Christmas tree is made from polymer clay and pipe cleaner. The process involved most students and staff at the campus being canvassed for their ideas. Six to eight students made prototypes, with two students working on the final product, supported by a staff member who undertook the drilling.
An ornament created by Louis Joel Arts and Community Centre representing divers locations within the Hobsons Bay municipality.
The glass work is by Maureen Williams, recognised as one of Australia’s foremost glass artists.
The magic and beauty of the Otways inspired us to bellieve Santa might live here.
The Christmas decoration represents Alpine Shire Council and was designed by a young artist, 13-year-old Giordano Genaro from Myrtleford.
A finely detailed print porclain of our significant natural landmark, Hanging Rock. This rare volcanic formation, located near the townships of Woodend and Mount Macedon, is a sacred place for local indigenous people, and home to various events and a wide array of native flora and fauna.
PS.Who hasn’t read Picnic at Hanging Rock or been there to try and discover what really happened?
Bendigo Council is the first municipality in Australia to have its own official tartan registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.
The colours represent the stories of Bendigo, whilst the design is symbolic of the mullock heap from Bendigo’s gold mining heritage.
- Gold: History of Bendigo’s goldmining days;
- Green: The state forest Bendigo is surrounded by;
- Red/browns: The parched Australian landscape and the sun;
- Blue/White: the State of Victoria, water and skies.
PS. Although Scots born, Bendigo’s tartan was a new discovery for me!
This decoration represents the hopes and aspirations of the people who live in the City of Hume, many of whom are refugees and migrants. The decoration celebrates the cultural diversity of Hume City.
It was made by a group of women of diverse faiths, from many different countries. It has a message of peace and tolerance.
Everyone Was Charmed By The Governor And Her Partner
Both Linda Dessau AM, who is the first female Governor of Victoria, and her partner Anthony Howard QC, are down-to-earth and inclusive. They were friendly and approachable on the night – so much so, it became like a Pixie Photo queue as they made themselves available to chat and their aides cheerfully took snaps for people on phones and iPads.
Anthony Howard approached me in the corridor, introduced himself and wanted to know where I was from and whether I was enjoying myself. His aide Michael obligingly took a photo and as the evening progressed and we were invited to wander through selected rooms and ‘make ourselves at home,’ I spotted Anthony on a sofa between a group of ladies from Echuca. Michael took half a dozen photographs amid laughter and joking. A fabulous time had by all!
A far cry from the stuffiness and strict protocol of ‘Government House and Governor’ in days of yore!
I saw hijabs, turbans, young and old, male and female, elected officials and ordinary citizens. Like the ornaments on the tree, we were diverse, colourful, different shapes and sizes and each had our own story!
Earlier this year, I went to Government House after being nominated for a Seniors’ Award but I never got a chance to meet the Governor. This time, I was able to congratulate her for trailblazing and being an inspiration for younger women. Each time I’ve heard her speak she has emphasised the importance of tolerance and equity, as well as equality.
This community event she has initiated has the potential to grow, to provide a space for city and country to come together, to learn from each other. To share stories about our communities and maybe even change the way things are done at a council or community level as ideas are explored and discussed.
For me, it was the first official Christmas event for this season and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I know there is a lot of sadness and conflict in the world but it is comforting to know that in Victoria there are compassionate, caring, community-minded people working to build a welcoming, harmonious society and we have a Governor who wants to recognise and honour that.
Events like this fill up those dark places and thoughts with light.
Artist Will Francis used materials of 3D printed plastic with light emitting diodes, to signify the future of technology and manufacturing. When it glows the light represents the constantly increasing cultural diversity of the region.
Christmas is indeed the season of Light – a light in the Christian faith emanating from the birth of a little boy who was sent to preach love and be the spiritual light for His followers.
Other faiths celebrate light and love too – Hanukkah, Diwali and Eid al-Fitr is a festival of sacrifice, feasting and giving of presents.
The girls and I have now put up our own Christmas tree with baubles loaded with memories just like the Government House tree.
A great beginning to what I hope will be a happy festive season!