Chern’ee Sutton designs safe space yarning circle

Chern'ee Sutton
Contemporary Indigenous artist Chern'ee Sutton has launched her newest and largest project, Yarning Circle. She is pictured here with her recent hand-painted mannequins.

Contemporary Indigenous artist Chern’ee Sutton has designed nine totem poles to create a safe space through a yarning circle for people to meet, talk and share their lives while helping to promote reconciliation.

Chern’ee is an accomplished traditional Kalkadoon Aboriginal artist with a contemporary vibe, painting through an altruistic framework and tone.

The Bundaberg-raised artist is proud of her newest work. She said it's her largest project yet and she hopes it will be seen right across Australia.

A yarning circle is a harmonious, creative and collaborative way of communicating to encourage responsible, respectful and honest interactions between participants, building trusting relationships.

Chern’ee designed each of the poles with a native animal, and said all had a significant meaning in the Indigenous culture.

“Butterflies are on one of the designs and when you see butterflies in nature it means everything around is healthy,” Chern’ee said.  

“Living in Bundaberg and with Mon Repos so close I have included a turtle designs as well.

Chern'ee Sutton
Chern'ee Sutton has designed nine Yarning Circle totem poles to create a safe space for people to gather and share stories.

“The turtles are one of the quintessential animals of Bundaberg and I was glad to include it in the yarning circle.”

The yarning circle poles are themed Our Sea, Jungle and Nature and will be placed in a circle which is 10 metres in diameter, incorporating a choice of ground cover from bark, sand, rubber and synthetic grass.

“I designed them a few months ago and they were launched during NAIDOC Week,” Chern’ee said.

“The idea is to have a safe place to share and talk to each other.

“They would be perfect in parks, playgrounds and especially schools.”

Chern’ee said each of the poles had its own theme with words written on them.

“They say respect, love, courage, empathy, trust and equality, all powerful words to encourage each other,” she said.

Yarning circle features

Yarning circles are an important practice and are traditionally used within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

The circle can be found in many indigenous cultural practices throughout the world.

It is considered to be a sacred place in which one should feel safe, sheltered and encouraged to share and learn within the group of circle dwellers.

Integration of a yarning circle is said to beneficial in a variety of ways.

It is conducted with a calm peaceful group who take turns in sharing and listening to each other while observing the intrinsic aspects of the circle such as showing respect, empathy for others and their opinions.

Chern’ee hopes local and national schools will be keen to include a yarning circle in the schoolyard and said it would give the students somewhere to go to share information with each other.