The University of Newcastle, Australia

Margaret Olley Postgraduate Scholarship Winner

Friday, 23 September 2016

The annual Margaret Olley Postgraduate Scholarship, sponsored by the Friends of the University of Newcastle, was created to support outstanding research in the creative industries. Successful recipients receive $2,000 to support them in their studies and research.

The winner of the 2016 scholarship is Penny Dunstan, a Fine Arts PhD student whose interest is in the recovery of ecosystems throughout the rehabilitation of mining lands.

“The idea that you destroy land then recreate it really doesn’t sit well with me. But the act of creation and where it goes from there, and how ecosystems re-establish themselves…there are many ways to view it and art is one of those ways.”

In Penny’s initial PhD proposal, she set out to document the recovery of multiple mine sites. However, she came across resistance when trying to access the sites, and so her project has turned a focus on one particular recovering mine, Rix’s Creek, owned by an Australian company, Bloomfield.

“We only ever see the bad stuff, and I really wanted to encourage these companies to show us what they’re proud of.”

Although Penny never set out to showcase any one specific mine, she was continually impressed by who she met and what she saw at this particular site.

“Amongst the people (there) who work in land rehabilitation, there’s a huge ethic of respect and care of the land – but we never hear about it.”

“It’s not what I set out to do but it’s what I discovered.”

Penny’s award winning work features drawings of the plants and evidence of animals returning to the mine void, created using graphite and chalk.

“I wanted to include the land in my work.”

Penny would like to thank John Hindmarsh, the Senior Environmental Officer at Rix’s Creek, for his help in making these works possible.

The broad range of student works entered for the prize will be on display at the University Gallery until October 1.

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