Towards a monument to Batman's Treaty, 2013

101 A0 printed sheets, pasted to the wall of the museum, and 3,520 bricks collected from citizens in and around Healesville.

Exh.: Future memorials, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 19 October 2103 — 9 February 2014.


In 2008 Tom Nicholson began to develop an as-yet-unrealised public art work: a monument to Batman’s Treaty, the conflicted document that lies at the origins of Melbourne’s foundation. This public monument is to consist of an obelisk-like free-standing chimney covered by an array of different plaques, suggesting different possible meanings for this simple vertical form. Taking as its starting point Melbourne’s first chimney, built for John Batman by William Buckley, the work engages the contradictory meanings of the Treaty that Batman claimed he signed with Wurundjeri people in 1835.

The installation at TarraWarra Museum of Art comprises the exact number of bricks required to construct the chimney, and the texts for the multiple plaques that would encase it. It is a proposition towards the future realisation of the monument, as well as the suggestion of the appearance of its own ruin.


Towards a monument to Batman's Treaty was the first phase of Future memorials, a long-term collaborative project with Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi Sydney-based artist Jonathan Jones and Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin. Commissioned by the TarraWarra Museum of Art and taking its cue from the proximity of TWMA to the site of Coranderrk Aboriginal Station (located along the Yarra River a few kilometres upstream from the Museum), Future memorials explores the effects of colonialism and seeks new ways to understand and renew the relationship between these histories and the present.

This first, museum exhibition phase of the project coincided with the 150th anniversary year of Coranderrk which was originally granted to Wurundjeri people, and other dispossessed Victorian Aboriginal people, in 1863. The station became both a thriving and self-sufficient economic community and a powerful base for Aboriginal self-organisation and political advocacy in the late 19th century, most notably through the singular work of the Ngurungaeta (cultural leader) and artist, Beruk, or William Barak.



Also part of Future memorials was a large-scale installation untitled (shield design) by Jonathan Jones in consultation with Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy, presenting a corridor of yellow light in the Museum’s Vista Walk gallery. The conceptual basis for the design of this work was the wooden parrying shield made by William Barak in 1897 which features a distinctive carved diamond pattern.

The colour of the light refered to Barak’s and his father’s prediction of their own death who both stated that they would pass when the muyan (wattle) bloomed. On loan from the Koorie Heritage Trust collection, the shield was displayed as part of the installation. Like a shield, Ngurungaeta (cultural leader) Barak, was steadfast in his campaign for the rights and protection of his people—promoting the strength and legitimacy of his community at Coranderrk—while maintaining their cultural heritage. The use of light also finds a connection in Barak’s paintings of ceremonies, which detail two fires, one for Wurundjeri and the other for guests/visitors.



In the project's second phase, the exhibition's physical parts are incorporated into the collaborative work Untitled (Seven monuments), a collaborative work with Jonathan Jones and Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy. This new public artwork will be installed into the landscape around Healesville to mark the original boundaries of Coranderrk.

This multi-layered project is a meditation on the nature of the monument itself, as a tradition closely linked to colonialism, and on the possibilities of new kinds of public art making or monumentality.

Related work

Towards a monument to Batman's Treaty


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