2021 Melbourne Art Trams: Deanne Gilson

Mon 4 October

Deanne Gilson’s rolling artwork, Karringalabil Bundjil Murrup, Manna Gum Tree (The Creation Tree of Knowledge), is one of the six Melbourne Art Trams designed exclusively by First Peoples artists in 2021.



Tram Route: 3, 3a, 64, 67

Deanne Gilson
“My painting depicts the Wadawurrung Creation Story of South Eastern Victoria, at a place known as Black Hill in Gordon, situated on my ancestral Country. A man known as Karringalabil the creator spirit, created the first man and woman out of clay (paapul). He took bark and leaves from the great birthing tree known today as the manna gum tree. The manna gum tree is a sacred tree that housed all the spirits of creation within its branches. Karringalabil turned the tree spirits into the birds of creation, who today, represent our ancestral totems. He then turned himself into the largest and most powerful bird, Bundjil the Eaglehawk. The role of the other birds was to help Karringalabil Bundjil, give and sustain life on earth.”

"After creating the plants, animals, waterways, forests and mountains, Bundjil asked his friends the birds, to perform different roles in order to complete his creation. Firstly, Parrwang the magpies lifted the sky, from darkness to light, giving us the first sunrise. Then Waa the ancestral crow, opened his lungs and blew life in to the people, scattering them across the countryside, after which they needed to keep warm and cook food, so Bundjil asked Jinap the cockatoo to bend down and scatter fire across Country on his burnt crest. Bundjil then took his two wives, Koonawarra the black swan sisters and flew high up in the sky above Lal Lal Falls, our sacred creation site today where he watches over all of us today."


Deanne Gilson is a proud Wadawurrung woman of Aboriginal and Australian/English descent, living on her ancestral Country of Ballarat in Victoria. Her award-winning art practice has spanned 35 years full time, or an entire lifetime, choosing to work full time on a painting and sculptural practice, along with facilitating cultural educational workshops in schools and local business. Gilson’s contemporary artworks aim to reconnect back to traditional stories, in particular her Creation Story given to her by her mum Marlene. Along with using marks found on ancestral artefacts, thus revealing cultural knowledge of women’s business and ceremony, while as the same time reflecting the colonial gaze as a way to strengthen and regain her identity back. Reviving ochre painting across Wadawurrung Country and creating a platform for healing, acceptance, reconciliation and strength. Stating that “my art is part of my Dreaming and ceremony, always was, always will be.”

Working in and out of western genres, like still life painting and traditional stone circles, Gilson was the first Wadawurrung artist to bring back traditional marks and ancestral stories within her art practice after colonisation, along with teaching her mum Marlene Gilson how to paint. An emerging elder in her community, Gilson has just received three awards including a community award for her art and teaching over 10,000 students about her culture and bringing positive change and awareness of Aboriginal people through art.

2021 Melbourne Art Trams

The place now known as Melbourne is a city built on the lands of the Kulin Nation peoples; Traditional Owners who continue to maintain deep connections to their country, kin and waterways that have existed for tens of thousands of years.

In 2021, for the first time, each Melbourne Art Tram has been designed by a First Peoples artist. As a collective of moving artworks all six share with us the strength and beauty of creative cultural expression and the interwoven connections and continuous cultures of First Peoples in Victoria. Below you'll find links to the work of each contributing artist, as well as further reading on the curation and selection process undertaken by RISING:


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