Skillinvest NAIDOC Week

Indigenous sculpture unveiled

Published 1 June 2022

Pictured from left: artists Lachie Marks and Johnny Gorton with their artwork, Skillinvest Chief Executive Officer Darren Webster and Regional General Manager Glenn Pohlner admire the work. Photograph compliments of Paul Carracher at The Weekly Advertiser.

Indigenous artists unveil Sculpture at Skillinvest during Reconciliation Week

Wimmera artists Lachie Marks and Johnny Gorton officially unveiled their sculpture titled Weapons of Wotjobaluk (WoW) at Skillinvest in Horsham on Tuesday, as part of Reconciliation Week.

Skillinvest asked the artists, both Wotjobaluk men, to create the sculpture, which is displayed in the organisation’s atrium in Horsham.

The initiative was a part of Skillinvest’s Reconciliation Plan (RAP) and represents the organisation’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Aunty Jennifer Beer conducted the Welcome to Country at the event. She was followed by speakers Darren Webster, Skillinvest CEO, Glen Pohlner, Skillinvest Regional General Manager, and artist Johnny Gorton who is also an advisor on the Skillinvest RAP Committee and Manager of Corporate Services at Goolum Goolum.

Mr Gorton and Mr Marks unveiled the sculpture to an audience of up to 50 guests including prominent community members and Skillinvest employees.

Mr Gorton said the sculpture was inspired by some of the first learnings he had as a child about his culture and the creation of traditional weapons.

“All the weapons represented would normally have been crafted from either black box or red gum saplings or trees,” Mr Gorton said.

The unveiling of the sculpture has been six years in the making, with the sculpture first featured at an exhibition at the Horsham Town Hall, and Goolum Goolum before making its way to Skillinvest. Previous attempts to hold the unveiling over the last two years had been postponed due to Covid 19.

Skillinvest Chief Executive Officer Darren Webster said Skillinvest had a long history working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, which extended back to when John Ackland founded the organisation (formerly Workco) over 35 years ago.

“John was passionate about Reconciliation and that passion continues right across our organisation today,” Mr Webster said.

Skillinvest was one of the first organisations within the Wimmera to have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) endorsed by Reconciliation Victoria in 2015, they now have three RAP sub-committees across Victoria.

Mr Webster said the organisation currently employed 34 people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, many who are enrolled in apprenticeships or traineeships.

“In the past two years 80 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students have either successfully completed or are continuing to complete training with Skillinvest.

“We continue to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations such as Goolum Goolum, Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-Operative and Indigenous Employment Partners as well as government partners and industry to provide employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Webster said.