Cyclone Tracy survivors criticise design of public monument to commemorate 50th anniversary

Cyclone Tracy survivors criticise design of public monument to commemorate 50th anniversary
  • PublishedJune 12, 2024

A storm has erupted over a $700,000 piece of public art being created for the 50th anniversary of one of Australia’s worst ever natural disasters, Cyclone Tracy.

Tracy slammed into the Northern Territory capital at full force on Christmas Eve 1974, decimating the city, killing 71 people, and forcing the evacuation of thousands of others.

Last week, the City of Darwin revealed the final design of the artwork, which will be built by New Zealand sculptor Phil Price overlooking the Timor Sea from Darwin’s Bundilla Beach.

The sculpture is designed to be kinetic and move with the wind.

“The monument … will be surrounded by a reflective area, providing a space for contemplation and allowing visitors to experience Darwin’s iconic sunrise and sunset,” the City of Darwin said in a statement.

However, since the design’s unveiling, there’s been outcry from within the Cyclone Tracy survivor community.

a design of an orange sculpture with what appears to be mangoes hanging off it
The monument is set to be built at Bundilla Beach in the Darwin suburb of Fannie Bay.(Supplied: Darwin City Council)

Hundreds of survivors have taken to an online survivors’ forum with criticisms about the “mango tree” sculpture and its perceived lack of relevance to the disaster it memorialises.

Author, Tracy survivor and head of the Remembering Cyclone Tracy Committee, Richard Creswick, told ABC Radio Darwin he was aware “mostly of criticism” surrounding the design and said he didn’t believe the work should be affiliated with Tracy.

“My concern is the linking of that sculpture to Cyclone Tracy … we’ve always believed that a memorial should be designed by a local artist and should be designed locally,” he said.

“If the council decides that it wants a kinetic sculpture at Bundilla Beach, that’s great, but … my committee and the people we represent, survivors of Cyclone Tracy, want a memorial that is reflective of Cyclone Tracy.”

Mr Creswick’s committee is seeking to raise the funds to build a separate monument in Darwin dedicated to the impact of Cyclone Tracy.

Houses flattened by Cyclone Tracy in December 1974
More than 80 per cent of Darwin’s buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged by Cyclone Tracy.(Supplied: Baz Ledwidge)

A City of Darwin spokesperson said Price’s proposed piece, which is of a similar design to many of the sculptor’s past works, was the only one that fit the specifications sought by the commissioning committee.

“The Cyclone Tracy Commemoration Advisory Committee agreed that a sculpture should be developed to educate the community about Cyclone Tracy, provide people with a place to gather, be kinetic and move with the wind,” they said.

“The only artist who could develop a piece of artwork to fit this brief was Phil Price, as his pieces are the only kinetic sculptures that are made of carbon fibre and can withstand Darwin’s environment.”

The spokesperson said Cyclone Tracy survivors had been on the commissioning committee, along with members of the Australian Defence Force, federal government, Larrakia Nation and council.

The ABC understands that the unveiled artwork design is final, but that its orange colour may yet be altered for the finished sculpture.


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