8 December 2022

Talented artist and Mind Australia client Stephen Oliver has won a competition that will see his work featured on the cover of Mind’s new Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Stephen’s painting ‘Walking and Working Together’ was voted the winning entry in Mind’s RAP art competition which was open to clients, carers and Mind employees who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

Stephen, who has a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, grew up in Kalkadoon Mitakoodi country and is a proud Waanyi and Kuku Yalanji man who has been expressing himself through art for nearly 30 years.

“I found a piece of old scrap timber and just started painting on it. Twenty-eight years later and I’m still doing it,” Stephen said.

“I like painting landscapes and things that remind me of my childhood; my happy place. Painting helps me remember all the stories of elders from the communities where I grew up.”

Stephen’s painting represents the role we all have to play in achieving meaningful reconciliation.

This is represented by the black and white coloured feet walking side-by-side in the hope that our communities can unite to overcome racial barriers and the stigma associated with mental illness, racism and cultural indifference.

Stephen’s painting also reflects on his own mental health recovery journey and coming out of a dark place and moving into a brighter, more hopeful future.

“Coming from a small community people don’t understand mental health. You don’t know who to disclose it to or how to explain it to your family and friends,” Stephen said.

“Everything in my heart and mind went on this canvass. The message I want to share is we all need to reconcile together; it doesn’t matter what age, what culture, what race, what faith you believe, mental health doesn’t discriminate and it affects everybody.”

Mind CEO Gill Callister said Stephen’s painting captured the essence of the Innovate RAP.

“Our Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan details how Mind walks alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in pursuing reconciliation, which is embodied by Stephen’s Walking and Working Together,” Ms Callister said.

“On behalf of Mind Australia I’d like to congratulate and thank Stephen for sharing his art with us, and allowing us to feature this fantastic piece on the cover of our Innovate RAP.”

Stephen is supported by Mind through the Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Cairns, Queensland.

At the centre, Stephen participates in group activities and Mind Recovery College courses – a program that bridges the gap between mental health service and education.

“It’s a safe place to be,” Stephen said.

“I feel connected and I feel like I belong here with everybody else. I used to isolate a lot and not answer phone calls, but now I’m learning to cope a lot more than I previously did.”

Mind’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan will be launched in early 2023.

If you would like more information about Mind services, please contact us via Mind Connect or by phone: 1300 286 463.

If this article raises concerns for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Man holding artwork