Melinda (Mel) Brown is a Director and co-owner of Calleo Indigenous, and the Founder of Spirit Dreaming, which provides training and capacity-building resources to First Nation people.

Mel is a proud Ngunnawal woman from Canberra with links to Ngarigo through her grandfather. Mel’s family has lived in Canberra as Ngunnawal people for more than five generations. Mel currently resides with her family in Bandjalung Country in northern NSW.

Painting provides Mel with a medium and opportunity to visually tell stories. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” accurately describes Mel’s passion for painting, as every eye interprets something different which is meaningful to the seer. Wisdom is found in the way the seer interprets the painting and the message and feelings that accompany the experience.

The title of the Calleo painting is BUNI GAUAR YURWAN, which in Ngunnawal language means make heart strong.  For Mel, this means having opportunities for growth and success, which can increase our sense of resilience and self-esteem. With a strong heart we can achieve reconciliation and improve overall well-being.

For Mel and all at Calleo, education, training and employment are very important ways to achieve inspiration and success. Contributing positively to communities and families for the benefit of future generations is very important.

About her artwork, Mel says that she likes to work in layers because they depict the complexities of a story – the same story which may be interpreted differently, but with the hope for all to extract a similar sense. In BUNI GAUAR YURWAN, the back purple layers represent the many communities and families that make-up the broader Canberra region. The communities within communities, the families within families, and importantly, the individuals who are the platforms from which our families and communities are built and sustained.

The black and grey tracks represent the rivers and pathways that connect our families and communities and lead us to the front layer, which is Canberra. The purple in the front layer represents Lake Burley Griffin which follows the path of the Molonglo River. In time the river became Lake Burley Griffin and became the centrepiece for the Canberra community, the ‘Meeting Place’. Mel’s Mum tells of childhood stories of playing at the river when the work was being done to create the lake, and how over a short time the landscape changed and a lake was born.

The large orange circle represents Calleo’s Head Office at Yarralumla near Lake Burley Griffin, and the medium sized orange dots represent the many workplaces that Calleo partners with – the smaller dots being the individuals in those workplaces who contribute to their families and their communities, and through their work have the potential to influence far beyond the reach of Canberra.

Through the story of Mel’s artwork, Calleo has been inspired to commission similar Indigenous art from all over Australia. By displaying this artwork and the Uluru Statement From the Heart in our workplaces and throughout the community Calleo helps raise consciousness of the importance of reconciliation for Australia’s future.