Ben McKeown

Ben McKeown stands in front of the tapestry of his work "Spring Street End" at the State Library of Victoria (Photo: University of Melbourne)

Ben McKeown stands in front of the tapestry of his work “Spring Street End” at the State Library of Victoria (Photo: University of Melbourne)


This statement was prepared and presented by Ben McKeown, artist, Mornington Peninsula Young Citizen of the Year 2000 and Young Australian of the Year Semi-Finalist for 2001 and 2002 and Indigenous Australian – Mornington Peninsula Peace Vigil, October 2001.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this place upon which we stand, the Boonwurrong people.

Also to acknowledge, as the Boonwurrong have done for thousands of years, the creator spirits of this land. Principally Bunjil, who watches us from above as a wedge-tailed eagle and Waa, the black raven, who you can hear at the moment.

Lastly, I wish to acknowledge and honour this very place. Today known as Arthurs Seat, but for the Boonwurrong this place was Wonga. Wonga was the heart of this country and was always revered as a special place, a sacred place. A place of sanctuary, of security and ceremony.

This mild evening in our small way we do only repeat the sanctity of the spirit of this place, Wonga. As we reflect this evening and make tribute for peace with our candles, it is fitting that we regenerate that same spirit that has always been here, and undoubtedly those same ancestors stand amongst us now, even as I speak, drawn to this ceremony, and hopefully to merge in the spirit that our vigil for peace offers.

Our small action here, is in the spirit that we wish to share for this magical world of ours.

Thank you.



Ben McKeown is a descendant of the Wirangu language group of the far west coast of South Australia. He is an artist and curator who seeks to challenge the sanctified histories and identities of this country. Ben’s artworks can be seen in many public, corporate and archival collections in both Australia and internationally, including the National Gallery of Australia, State Library of Victoria, Michigan State University in the USA, Durban Art Gallery in South Africa, South African Human Rights Trust, Archive of Humanist Art in Melbourne, the UN Headquarters in New York, the Australian Print Workshop Archive and the Larry Rawling Print Workshop Archive. A graduate from the University of Melbourne with a Master of Visual Art and a Master of Fine Art, Ben is the recepient of many awards, including first prize in the 2011 Deadly Art Awards supported by Arts Victoria.