The story of the artwork Birrena Umphie


The story of the artwork Birrena Umphie

by artists Birrunga Wiradyuri and Kane Brunjes

Our artwork at the Songbird Oxley entrance – Birrena Umphie, meaning “arrival” or “arriving” – welcomes residents and visitors alike, inviting them to celebrate the local indigenous wildlife.


Meaning is woven into every subject, colour, texture, shape and line of this piece, communicating much about the land, its fauna, and the depth of care for Country practiced by local Indigenous Peoples.

Throughout the piece, we have used subtle icons and aesthetics that are unexpected to ignite curiosity, invite further investigation and achieve connection and buy-in.


The story of LOCAL WILDLIFE told by Birrena Umphie

1. The Curlew

We considered the abundance of local birdlife in the area and chose to emphasise the Curlew as the central design element in this piece because it is a vulnerable, rarely-seen bird. As a nocturnal, ground-dwelling, ground-nesting bird, the Curlew perfectly symbolises the hidden assets nestled in this estate. As Songbird Oxley breaks new ground – both literally and metaphorically – this artwork adorning its entrance invites visitors and residents to celebrate local wildlife. By starting the design with the Curlew – the estate’s most-vulnerable and inconspicuous natural asset – we are demonstrating a holistic circle of care that includes all of the area’s flora and fauna. In doing so, we also convey the profound depth and breadth of care that has been practised by local Indigenous Peoples throughout the area’s history./br
The tracks of the Curlew are etched and painted across the sandstone blocks – as though walking into and out of the estate – low to the ground as is the habitat of the Curlew.

2. Other birdlife

We added stylised feathers cast in brass placed high on the posts in various positions to represent the area’s abundant birdlife. The location of the feathers references the positioning of birdlife high in the trees of the estate./br
All the birds at Songbird Oxley are pollinators and are extremely important to the health and wellness of the landscape.

3. Native bees

We carved native bees into various elevations on the poles to highlight their benevolent importance to the area as pollinators. These gentle industrious creatures, whose role in the landscape is critical, have also faced many challenges due to the introduction of non-native species./br
By incorporating native bees into the artwork, we aim to enhance residents’ and visitors’ awareness and appreciation of them, underscoring the profound connection between the health of the local ecosystem and the preservation of these beautiful, little creatures.

4. Butterflies

The key significance of butterflies in this piece lies in their representation and embodiment of the transformative process of metamorphosis. These colourful creatures symbolise growth, change, and the cycle of life as they progress through their journey from egg to larva, pupa, chrysalis, butterfly, and back to the beginning./br
The butterflies are composed of stylised representations of Nulla Nullas (hardwood clubs), Shields, Boomerangs, Spears, and other cultural belongings from both local and broader Indigenous cultures. This approach incorporates the rich heritage and traditions of Indigenous communities into the depictions of these key pollinators.

The story of COUNTRY told by Birrena Umphie

1. The river*

We included representations of the river: the primary shaping and influencing factor of the geography of the local area. We sited the river visually low on each pole as groups of coloured lines, gracefully tracing the path of its flow.

2. Groups of 3*

We represented the river in groups of three repeated river curves traced in different colours on each pole. The number three was chosen following consultation with local Traditional Owners and cultural knowledge holder, Madonna Thomson, who nominated three as a number of cultural significance suitable for the river’s inclusion in this artwork.

3. Colours of the river*

The selection of colours for the three rivers depicted on each post resulted from consultation with local Traditional Owners and cultural knowledge holder, Madonna Thomson, who nominated the three colours as the main colours of ochre used in local Cultural Ceremonies.

Please note: The colour choice for the top river was applied with some artistic license. Using black, the true colour of the ochre, would have lost the aesthetic due to the dark background colour of the poles. We opted for a dark plum/purple shade. This decision resulted in a subtle line that becomes apparent upon closer inspection rather than being immediately obvious. This aligns with our intention throughout the piece to present subtle icons that ignite curiosity and foster buy-in. To enhance visibility, we applied a clear gloss finish over the top plum line and included a black framing line at the top and bottom of each river. The black framing line not only references the colour of the ceremonial ochre but also helps mitigate the subtlety of the plum against the dark pole background.
*We engaged in Traditional Owner Cultural counsel and consultation and Cultural knowledge holder counsel and consultation in deciding these aspects of the artwork.