Cairns Convention Centre Unveils Artwork by Local First Nations Artist, Elverina Johnson

The Cairns Convention Centre is proud to announce the launch of a stunning new artwork by renowned local artist, Elverina Johnson titled ‘Reef Connections’. This piece, which beautifully captures the connection between the ocean, reef, mangroves, and the land with First Nations people, is now on display at the Centre. 

Elverina Johnson, a Gungganji Gurugulu and Gimuy Walubara Yidinji artist from Yarrabah, has created this artwork to reflect the deep-rooted stories of hunting and gathering on the reef that have been passed down through generations. The artwork emphasises the vital role the ocean and land plays in sustaining life. It serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of all elements of nature and the importance of caring for country as it cares for us. 

Elverina was selected through an expression of interest process, in partnership with Northsite Contemporary Arts Gallery, Elverina Johnson was selected to create the commissioned artwork.   

Hamish Sawyer, previous Artistic Director, NorthSite, Richard Coulson, Director, Cox Architects, and Francoise Lane, Artistic Director, CIAF made up the independent selection panel. 

This initiative marks a pivotal step in the Centre’s Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan, as they strive to create an environment that not only provides opportunities for First Nations people but also educates clients and delegates from around the world about the rich cultural heritage of the land on which our Centre stands.  

“We are thrilled to showcase Elverina Johnson’s artwork, which not only enhances the vibrancy of our Centre but also educates and inspires our visitors about the cultural significance of the land and sea to the First Nations people,” said Janet Hamilton, General Manager at the Cairns Convention Centre. “This artwork is a testament to the enduring connection between the environment and the cultural heritage of our First Nations people.  

The commissioned artwork is now displayed in the entry to the new expansion and is a wonderful edition to the First Nations art collection displayed throughout the Centre.  

Tourism Minister and Member for Cairns, Michael Healy commented on Centre’s appointment. 

“It certainly is fitting that ASM Global has commissioned an artist of Elverina’s high standing to create a First Nations artwork to welcome visitors to the new-look Centre. 

“The State Government invested $176 million to upgrade and expand this world-class facility and, although it’s been open for less than 12 months, it is already proving to be a massive boost to tourism and trade across the Tropical North, attracting world-class conferences.”


The story behind the Artwork: Reef Connections – Elverina, Johnson

The artwork is about the connection between the ocean, reef, mangroves, and the land with First Nations people, particularly the Gungganji and Yidinji people of Yarrabah and Cairns. 

Their stories about hunting and gathering on the reef have been passed down from generation to generation about how the sea sustains us. 

The reef is the breath of the ocean, flowing from the sea to the rainforest. We must look after the reef as it looks after us. Everything is connected and has its place.


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