Lakes Entrance indigenous artist and leader, Alice Pepper’s artistic talents were on show on Sunday when the Melbourne Vixens took on the Queensland Firebirds in the national Super Netball League competition.
The Super Netball League held its third annual indigenous round with the Vixens women wearing Alice’s design on their dresses.
Alice said her design depicts the regeneration and healing of the land and her local community following the summer’s devastating bushfires.
She is proud to be a Gunnaikurnai woman, mother, wife and an active community member throughout Gippsland.
“I have worked in programs dealing with health, justice, education, drugs and alcohol, employment and training, social and emotional wellbeing, youth mentoring and lateral violence,” Alice said.
Alice is passionate about the arts and culture expressed through local stories, songs, language and dance.
“I like experimenting with different mediums and practicing the skills and knowledge that has been passed on by my elders and cultural specialists over the years and sharing that knowledge with our youth,” she said.
Alice has always enjoyed playing netball and was even lured out of retirement last year to play for Lindenow South in the Omeo and District League.
Alice also designed the Lakes Entrance Football Club’s indigenous jumper in 2018.
The brief from Netball Victoria, initiated by Gippsland netball stalwart, Judy Buhagiar and facilitated by Netball Victoria’s diversity and inclusion coordinator, Sarah Last, was to reflect the coming together, strength and unity of people and communities in challenging times.
Alice started working on the Vixens project last February and discovered it was cathartic for her to reflect on the experiences of the fires through the Gurnaikurnai traditions.
The Bogong moth is significant to the High Country and is placed in the mountains in the highest part of the dress where ancestors had travelled from. The Vixen head at the top of the dress looks over the country through the eyes of those surrounded by the fires, hoping for rain. The blue symbolises the donations of water that were received across East Gippsland.
The footprints are of those who were evacuated along the Gippsland line, walking down the centre of the dress away from the fires towards Lakes Entrance.
Along this Gippsland line people are helping each other and gathering in large numbers, represented in the circle at the bottom of the dress.
This is a gathering and coming together of communities, with people offering accommodation, food, water and looking after children. The rivers can be seen flowing horizontally across the dress and represents a place where people crossed when evacuating.
In the middle panel of the dress is the burned landscape. The green regrowth on the trees and leaves is a stark contrast to the blackened country.
Alice feels painting this story has been healing for her.
“I am happy to have encompassed this story into the painting,” she said. Alice was meant to fly up to the game in March, but with the onset of COVID-19 it was postponed until now and played with no spectators.
“It ended up being a virtual viewing which in a way has been good because the explanation of the design had to be written down instead of spoken,” she said.
“This helped in the explanation of the design. I have had lots of feedback and congratulations.
“To see it all there on Sunday was surreal.”
Local indigenous artist, Alice Pepper, showing off her design to the Melbourne Vixens players earlier this year. (PS)