Path of Pain

Our concept  then is based on a series of inter-connected major symbolic artworks encompassing a great area of country, expressed in a series of ‘elements’ bonded together through the awareness of the  “Path of Pain” using the simple but powerful symbolism of a ‘chain’ motif…which we believe communicates for itself. This is articulated in various forms which ‘speak’ to the participant in visual language and communicates in a direct experience of the tragedy of the Lock Hospitals of WA, in all its aspects.


The “Path of Pain” Concept is, in essence, the basis for a ‘pilgrimage’ that we believe can take its place amongst the great pilgrimage pathways of the world, such as the DooLough Walk in Ireland and many others around the world.

The feature ‘element’ of the Chain, is an on-going repeated component, fundamental to the entire concept. It is the title of the Work and is expressed in a sculptural form that appears at intervals throughout the trail, as a ‘Pathway’ marker and rest-stop, on the pilgrimage road to Carnarvon and the One Mile Jetty, from whence the Aboriginal people were transported to Dorre and Bernier Islands.


The path of pain – as a ‘pilgrimage roadway’, takes the form of a group of chain benches or seats, which powerfully symbolise the agony and pain of these people who were brought to Carnarvon for the forced incarceration on the Islands of Shark bay.

Each ‘element’ has a symbolism all its own – yet works as an ‘entirety’ in the larger scheme. Thus, the project can be implemented in stages – all with an individual life of their own.

This idea also embodies the deep symbolism of ‘links’ connecting the present to the past but also the links of friendship and healing on into the future. The chain seats would also be visually very powerful and evocative in themselves, of the horror of that terrible journey.

Basically, the idea is to set up these ‘rest areas’ of contemplation which can be islands of meditation and remembrance for the individual ‘pilgrim’- or meeting areas of communication of group interaction where stories can be told and histories remembered.

 Physically, these giant ‘links’ seem to appear and disappear visually- while subconsciously indicating the suggestion of one long chain stretching all the way out to the end of the One Mile Jetty or over any stretch of country if this was not possible- even all the way from the Pilbara-and beyond.

Each ‘chain seat’ would have a different number and arrangement of ‘links’ and contain information for visitors on how to access an ‘app’ on their mobile phones each containing a section of the story at that point in the journey- or a simple plaque with the story.

This may also include a person with a mobile phone, indicating that the history could be accessed on an App or some device, whereby, when a visitor ( we prefer to call them ‘pilgrims’) come to the Pathway. They can sit within the very environment where this tragedy was enacted and become absorbed in the ‘telling’-while gazing out to sea- perhaps oral histories and such like?

At this stage, the number of  such ‘chain seats’ it would be possible to implement, is not determined and an idea to be worked through for all practical purposes, but the concept, in principle, is to space these great chain sculptures at intervals, either confined to the Carnarvon area – or far beyond. The possibilities are numerous.

Technically, it would be more practical to fabricate the chain ‘links’ from Carbon Fibre as this would overcome the heat factor of metal. Carbon Fibre is also used in in roofs to allow light in without the heat. ( ‘Suntuf’ is such a product which is used for veranda roofing to allow in light but not heat!).

The idea of a single sheet of corrugated material arching over a set of chain sculptures to form an enclosed space also holds a simple, symbolic connection to the minimal shelter available to Aboriginal people on the Islands.

The extension and development of this concept has enormous potential. This could progress into a ‘Pilgrimage Walk’, transforming the ‘Path of Pain’ with the feature chain elements, into a related context: i.e. that of a Pilgrimage as well as a Memorial, many of which are now established around the world today such as the Camino Salvado; the Kumano Koda; and especially from our Irish heritage point of interest; the DooLough Walk, as mentioned previously.

This would be a major opportunity to create such a ‘walk’, as a pilgrim route of meditation and reflection. Thus, the project has the  potential to become a means of really involving people of all backgrounds, to experience and memorialize what happened in Carnarvon – Shark Bay.. and those sad islands all those years ago.

 There is of course a great heritage of Aboriginal people engaging in major ‘walks’- (walkabout), indeed more than any people on earth, it seems, over the longest period of time as well. However, it doesn’t translate into contemporary idiom/activity in the same way – but this may now be an opportunity to revive this heritage in a modern and especially meaningful context.