There’s no denying 2020 is shaping up as an extraordinarily tough year. The drought that led to the bushfires and COVID-19 have reduced the number of tourists visiting the Gippsland towns in Victoria, Australia. However, one Gippsland town is sure to emerge stronger, with a vibrant show of their local history and culture that will welcome visitors when they can return. The community of Yarram has proudly unveiled the last of 12 murals which have transformed the once blank walls of the town into vibrant exhibits honouring those who made their mark in the history of this region and those who continue to shape the town today.
The murals were painted by renowned street and silo artist Heesco Khosnaran over five weeks in March 2020. The project, also known as ‘HEESCOTOWN,’ was the brainchild of local Yarram resident Eric Greenaway and has been coordinated and documented by film-makers and owners of The Bull Bar – Anne and Wayne Tindall.
Yarram is a picturesque town of just over 2,000 people, two and a half hours drive south-east of Melbourne. It is the ideal base from which to explore the cool temperate rainforest of Tarra Bulga National Park, the historic fishing village of Port Albert, the highest single span falls in Victoria, Agnes Falls, and the start of the world’s second-longest uninterrupted beach, the 90 Mile Beach.
Victoria Hotel, Alberton
Established in 1891 the hotel sits in the small town of Alberton, next to Port Albert. According to its owners Brendan and Michelle Farley, “We heard about what was happening in Yarram and watched a video about Heesco and his work with local artist Wayne Tindall owner of the Yarram Bull Bar and thought it would be a good thing to give something back to the community. We made contact thinking we were too late as the project was already beginning, but Wayne And Eric Greenaway came straight down, and it just went from there.
After an initial conversation with Wayne, we decided on a heritage image that was not too bright but one that would stand out boldly and be seen clearly from the South Gippsland Highway. It had to be a period image and of course hotel-related, hence we picked a design of a gentleman unloading old kegs by hand.”
Beta Electronics Building – Grant Street, Yarram
The mural on the building owned by Garry and Judy Spephens depict Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge at Tarra Bulga National Park as it is an iconic representation of the district. The reason for featuring Kara Healey on the mural was to recognise her significant role in the history of Tarra Bulga National Park. Kara came to the Park in 1949 and after the death of her husband, Jim became effectively the first female park ranger in Victoria in 1952.
Brown Wigg Building, Commercial Road, Yarram
The painting of a farmer shearing a sheep with his dog beside him represents the business perfectly, what they do for the community. As also for building owner Wendy Palmer, as she had spent her childhood on a sheep farm in the Yarram area.
Bull Bar & Gallery, 258 Commercial Road, Yarram
It was Bull Bar & Gallery owners Wayne and Anne Tindall’s idea to paint murals on the long empty walls that ran down the alleyway. After obtaining permission from the owners of the wall, they started work and Wayne had even completed three paintings before he realized that the task would take years to complete. So he invited a bunch of well known Melbourne street artists to join him filling up the walls with colour and new life. That is how Wayne met Heesco Khosnaran and a long-term friendship followed. Stonnington Council eventually came on board with the Laneway Project giving Wayne several grants to complete the huge task. They even named the laneway “Artists Lane”.
Drakefords Coffee Roasting Business, Commercial Road, Yarram
Mattern’s Hardware was established in the 1880s and the current owners of the building bought the shop in mid-2019. The mural was created to ensure that more than a century-old legacy of the store remained true.
Depicted on the right-hand side of the artwork is Victor Hugo Mattern who is one of the son’s of Franz Peter Mattern who established the hardware store in 1887. The second half of the mural shows Robert Drakeford current Business Manager of Drakefords Coffee Roasting Business along with his parents’ dog Dougal, a coffee field and coffee beans. The mural reflects a transition in the history for the store – from the Mattern family until now.
Federal Coffee Palace, Commercial Road Yarram
According to building owner Peter Stone, “Although there were several candidates to have their face on this building, Ralph for me was an obvious choice. Ralph was a Bullocky back in the day. He was known and loved by many in the area. He was an enormous character and represents the early settlers that made this area what it is today. I thought it was important to commemorate him on my building….and judging from the public response, I think I made the right call.”
MG Trading – 39, Commercial Road Yarram
The idea was to create an iconic dairy industry image that would light up people as they approach Yarram from the north. Bill McKenzie was chosen to be featured on the mural as he has been involved with the company for over 50 years. Bill was tanker driver for MG Trading for several years, he also worked at the Trading Store as a delivery driver. Bill and Marg are dairy farmers who have always supplied their milk to the company. Bill has just recently retired from dairying but is still a great supporter of the store. The mural that has been created at the Northern entrance to Yarram is an outstanding welcome and will hopefully help to draw many visitors. Heesco has done an outstanding job bringing to life one of the districts outstanding characters along with a very handsome Border collie named Toby.
Ship Inn Motel, Commercial Road, Yarram
The mural depicts a bar filled with colourful characters such as pirates, skeletons, treasure chest and a Mongolian Warrior Queen with a majestic eagle perched upon her shoulder. The bar scene is full of interesting characters. Owners Paul Frost and Jody Twiste added backstories to the scene with naming the three skeletons causing mischief in the top corner as Garry, Trevor, and Geoff. The bar is staffed by a peculiar bartender, a roguish pirate with a tankard in his hand. Frank, a skeleton that liked a tipple of rum in both worlds, is resting casually on the bar enjoying his otherworldly refreshment. If you look closely, you can even find a few references to some wonderful people that were involved in the project hidden in the backgrounds.
Wynne’s Building, Commercial Road Yarram
Building owner Ashlie Faulkner wanted a huge wave on his building. Pure and simple, just a wave as a nod the fact that Yarram is a major service centre for coastal communities in Gippsland, located south of the Strzelecki Ranges, east of Wilsons Promontory, and inland from the historic Port Albert. Dolphins were also added to the mural as there are so many in the local inlets and Bass Straight. The result is once again nothing short of amazing.
Yarram Bakery, Commercial Road, Yarram
Owner Liem Nguyen settled in Yarram in 1983 as a refuge after the war from Vietnam. He has never forgotten the welcome he received from the then Fraser Government as a boat person fleeing persecution. He remembers vividly the warm welcome into Australia, people with open arms. So when he received the request to get involved with a painting on the wall of his business, he took it as an opportunity to say ‘thank you Australia’. it also depicts the trauma and enormity of the suffering Liem witnessed during the persecution.