Djeripy Mulcahy © 2020

Artist Djeripy Mulcahy, a Gamilaroi and Jarriwa man completed this artwork in consultation with Liz Kupsch, a Waanyi and Kalkadoon woman and designer of the Teachers of STEM Initiative.

Meaning of Artwork

Each piece of art developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists share stories and connections to culture. In this artwork, developed for our ToSI women and the Professional Development programs they attend, the story shares cultural significance and connections to Country.

The artwork focuses on four key elements including Fire, Earth, Spirit and Water. Each of the elements are joined by an umbilical cord to signify they are all connected. Inside, the umbilical cord is the backbone which acknowledges women as the backbone to their families and their communities. There are ripples surrounding these elements which show the impact and influence that women have had on family and community for thousands of years. Women continue to have an impact on all that surround them.

The ToSI art story includes how all women (mothers, sisters, Aunties, Grandmothers) unknowingly influence others. Women may not be aware of their influence or whether it be positive or otherwise. As women impact all of those around them, this has a clear impact on the current generation. This signifies the ripple effect created through the Teachers of STEM Initiative. The impact is immeasurable, ever flowing, and continuous as ripples are. Women who choose the ToSI pathway not only to do this for themselves, but for their children, their families, their communities, their schools and the wider community.

Within the ToSI artwork, women are pictured around the four elements of fire, earth, spirit and water. Women come together and surround one another with support. This includes the institutes support for ToSI women, through Mentoring and Support Pathways (MSP) to enable all those connected with ToSI to set achievable goals and reach those goals. As the saying goes, “it takes a whole village to raise a child.”

The cultural significance of the elements


Fire was essential for life and living, providing heat, protection, food and places for gathering. It was also used for medicinal purposes as in smoke for healing and cleansing body, mind, and spirit. Fire was essential for managing the land, cleansing the land, for regrowth and renewal. Fire was needed for germination of seeds, sparking growth, linking growth cycles, and creating food sources for animals across the entire ecosystem. Women have been coming together around the fire to share knowledge through stories, passing down of ceremony, food, dance, music and art. Fire brings family and community together so it is a place to watch smoke rise and remember who we are, and where we came from. Grass trees were the makers of fire. They were born from fire and were the source of fire sticks and resin. The Seven Sisters are campfires in the sky, the place where Indigenous people return, where their totems are and to assist in navigation on the land. The stars (campfires in the sky) tell us where we are, where we are going, and where we have come from.


The green mountains represent the Bunya gathering place of many nations. They are green to represent all plants we must take care of. The place where Mother earth's breast lay to feed all children. You see her here at the bottom of the circle, she is full with child and provides the stability and power to be a life giver, strong, hard and unyielding as the land, where our roots and connections are.


The element of spirit signifies the creator and two wives. There was/is Lore passed onto all women with breath and spirit, through songs, story and dance. Women play a role in their communities to pass on knowledge from their mothers before and their mothers before, the ancestors passing on knowledge for 10s of thousands of years of initiated knowing, caring and sustaining communities. When women speak through the air, the breath that comes out travels to the next woman to be passed on. This is the power that ripples on through each generation.


Water is the life source and the life flow. It represents great flow when we are in balance with ourselves. Bounded by no rocks, no barriers, just free flow. In water there are many wonders of ingenuity, fish traps, rock formations, nets, knowledge of the waterways and water life to sustain the people. Knowledge of toxins and leaching to allow foods to be gathered and eaten to feed communities and bringing food back with coolamons. Water can be women’s places of gathering to conduct women's business. Birthing trees as sacred places for women to bring life into the world.


The coolamon is the holder of all that is good and sacred of the earth, including children, ochre, food and water.


Songlines crisscross our lands to represent many nations who intersect with each other to connect and share and grow in strength.

Weaving Mats

Weaving mats represent strength in the many layers of the match that women bring consciously and unconsciously to all of our communities.