BREATH OF LIFE: Byron Bay artist Gene Cundith works on a spectacular mural at Ulmarra.
BREATH OF LIFE: Byron Bay artist Gene Cundith works on a spectacular mural at Ulmarra. Adam Hourigan

Highway mural tells the land’s story

A FAMILY driving along the Pacific Highway pulls over to take in a spectacular new mural painted on a wall at Ulmarra.

The kids in the back seat have their faces pressed against the window in awe.

Paul Howitt, who owns the building where the mural has been installed, said the artwork had become a real attraction ever since Byron Bay artist Gene Cundith began work on the piece.

Mr Howitt moved to Ulmarra three months ago from Tenterfield and asked Mr Cundith to create something on the wall.

Have you seen the new mural at Ulmarra? While it's a stunning piece of art illustrating the story of the Yaegl people,...

Posted by The Daily Examiner on Friday, 17 April 2015

Before beginning the work Mr Cundith, of Native American and Japanese heritage, meditated in an attempt to find out what the land wanted him to paint.

"The land said I want you to paint the Dreaming, the spirit of the land," Mr Cundith said.

"So I went to find the elders."

The 21-year-old met with Yaegl archaeologist and elder Ron Heron to learn the Yaegl creation story.

Mr Heron and other elders shared with Mr Cundith their Dreaming stories.

Mr Heron said he had also informed Mr Cundith of the cultural restrictions and warned that breaking any of the customs outlined by the elders would provoke consequences.

"He got permission," Mr Heron said.

"I told him what he can and can't do."

Should the mural on the Pacific Highway at Ulmarra get painted over?

This poll ended on 24 April 2015.

Current Results

No, it is a great artwork that tells the story of the Yaegl people.


No, bugger the heritage code.


Yes, it does not fit in with the town.


Yes, it breaches the heritage code. While beatiful, it could set a precedent for the future.


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"There is a warrior doing the meditation stance teaching a child the tradition of the land," Mr Cundith said.

"It is very connected to nature and the land. That's one of the biggest things I wanted to portray in the painting."

Mr Heron said he was pleased with the mural.

"There are so many stories. That is just a dip in the bucket," he said.

Search Gene Cundith Art on Facebook for more work.

Council reaction to mural

TWO weeks after Byron Bay artist Gene Cundith started painting the mural depicting the Yaegl creation story, property owner Paul Howitt received a letter from the Clarence Valley Council telling him the mural's striking colours breached the heritage code.

The letter said Mr Howitt was liable for about $1 million in fines if he did not submit a development application or paint over it.

"It has received outstanding support from the community," Mr Howitt said.

Mr Howitt sent a letter to the council, explaining its cultural significance to the Yaegl people, its popularity and how art benefits society.

Clarence Valley Council acting general manager Troy Anderson said because the building was located in a heritage conservation area, development approval is needed for anything that altered the exterior of a building.

"When the application is submitted it will be advertised and considered on its merits," he said.

In a Daily Examiner poll, 91% of 542 respondents voted to keep the mural.