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Saturday, 19 February 2022
Sawmillers Reserve, McMahons Point
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Thank you, Philip. 

I, too, acknowledge that we are standing on the land and looking over the waters of the Cammeraygal and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Mayor, Elsa and members of the Exhibition Committee, artists, volunteers, supporters, local residents and visitors …

Being a Lavender Bay local of some 30 years, Sawmillers is part of my home territory and so, it is quite special to be back here at the Reserve and especially to be so warmly welcomed by a guard of honour provided by North Sydney Scouts. Thank you. 

This is such a peaceful spot that it is hard to believe that in the 1920s John Eaton’s Pioneer Sawmills, perched here on the harbour foreshore, boasted 6 million feet of timber in stock, had its own powerhouse, two sawmills, an engineer’s shop, a joinery shop, a blacksmiths shop and its own wharf and crane to unload logs and load up timber. The remnant foundations of the saw mill preserve that history.

Today, the community is the beneficiary of the campaign by local residents, including Elsa Atkin AM, which resulted in North Sydney Council buying this land in 1979 with the assistance of the State Government and reclaiming the foreshore for a public park.

The same local spirit is behind Sculpture at Sawmillers.  This is the 4th Exhibition following those in 2010, 2014 and 2016. I still remember seeing Elsa one day after the first Exhibition in 2010 and congratulating her on such a wonderful initiative.  

Sculpture means different things to different people. At its essence, it is the most tactile of the great art forms.  As a medium of public art, sculpture, in a very tangible way, contributes to a community’s identity and sense of belonging to a place.  In an increasingly depersonalised world of high rise and close urban living, that sense of belonging has perhaps never been more important.   

Whatever its form or shape, whether it sits in a public place, within a private space, within an urban landscape or in parkland, and you will feel this today as you wander through the reserve, sculpture makes us aware of our environment and our space within it. 

All art needs a forum and an audience.  Sculpture at Sawmillers provides both. But as an Exhibition of this scale and quality Sculpture at Sawmillers is much more. It is a proudly local event, providing opportunities for civic engagement, generating community pride and contributing to the local economy.  Over the next week this will be a gathering place for old friends, a place to meet new friends, a place to invite in the wider community.  

None of this would happen of course without the artists whose 58 works are on display, the volunteers who have worked so hard to make it all possible, and the support of Council and the generous sponsors.

To all involved – thank you – for this expertly curated Exhibition of sculptures, so beautifully positioned throughout the Reserve.

It is my great pleasure to officially open Sculpture at Sawmillers.


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