Melbourne's ‘Little’ streets are set to be transformed into urban oases, showcasing stencils of local indigenous flora and fauna, as part of a drive to provide more space for pedestrians.
Stencil designs of river red gum blossoms, fairy wrens, tea trees, native bees and butterflies will be unveiled on roads across 17 blocks in Flinders Lane, Little Collins Street, Little Bourke Street and Little Lonsdale Street from late December.
An artist’s impression of Little Collins after its makeover.
Created by a prominent Aboriginal graphic designer, Karajarri man Marcus Lee, the themes will be different in each street: herbs for Flinders Lane, grasses for Little Collins, shrubs for Little Bourke and trees for Little Lonsdale.
Mr Lee used three colours to reflect the vegetation classes that existed before colonisation: purple in the west, pink in the middle and deep red in the east.
Born in Darwin and raised in Melbourne, Mr Lee has created designs for the AFL, Australia Post, the 2015 Closing the Gap report and others.
“Creating this artwork pattern provided an incredible opportunity to gain an insight into the natural environment of the indigenous flora and fauna that existed in these local areas,” he said.
“In pre-colonial times, traditional Aboriginal cultural practices would have effectively utilised these varying woodlands to provide an abundance of food sources and resources.”
Accompanying the simplied designs of plant life will be “incidental” images of mammals, birds and amphibians, which Mr Lee said would "add a sense of habitat and discovery" for people moving through the city.
Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp said the project would transform bitumen into something beautiful.
“This project demonstrates our commitment to proudly showcasing our city’s Aboriginal history and we believe it will become an attraction in its own right,” she said.
“The patterns will signal to drivers and cyclists that pedestrians have priority, particularly in busy locations around shops, cafes and restaurants.
“The stencils are a simple and effective way to make sure people can safely move around our city and access businesses on our Little streets more safely.”
Little Collins will be the first street to receive its makeover, and works will start before Christmas.
The project is part of a wide-ranging capital-works program designed to make the city's streets more appealing for pedestrians, and create more space to allow for social distancing.
Speed limits have been lowered to 20km/h in the Little streets, and speed bumps and planter boxes have been installed to quell speeding.
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