Warrior Woman Lane benefits from council budget

Carol Saffer

As part of the City of Melbourne’s recently announced draft budget 2022-23, $150,000 was allocated to commission a public artwork in Warrior Woman Lane in honour of its namesake. The project also includes a paid curatorial mentorship program for emerging Aboriginal women curators.

Warrior Woman Lane was named after Lisa Bellear – a Minjungbul, Goernpil, Noonuccaland South Sea Islander woman from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island, Queensland), born and raised in Naarm (Melbourne).

She was a prolific activist, photographer, broadcaster, poet, feminist, politician, comedian, academic and performer.

Lisa was a member of the Stolen Generations, a qualified social worker, passionate about the arts and devoted to addressing the needs and communicating the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people globally.

She passed away in 2006, aged 45.

Because her surname is very similar to Bellair St in Kensington, her family suggested the laneway be named “Warrior Woman”; words that feature in one of her poems.

Located off Nicholson St between Kay St and Alexandra Parade, Warrior Woman Lane has existed since the 1800s, and until 2017 it had no name.

In 2017 the City of Melbourne approached the Victorian Women’s Trust with a request for assistance in developing a list of notable women to address the gender bias in street naming.

The Trust noted at the time how vitally important it is to represent women’s long contribution to civic life with obvious, tangible and long-lasting tributes.

Cr Rohan Leppert, the council’s then chair of the arts, culture and heritage portfolio, said, “It’s not every day we get the chance to name a laneway, so this was a fantastic opportunity to honour Lisa Bellear and her poetry.”

From historic laneways to major landmarks, Lord Mayor Sally Capp recently said that public art played a vital role in defining who we were as a city.

“We’re delighted to be able to support some incredible Aboriginal artists to create an exciting piece of public art in Warrior Woman Lane to recognise and celebrate the achievements of Lisa Bellear,” Cr Capp said.

When reviewing Ms Bellear’s book of poetry Aboriginal Country, editor Jen Jewel Brown said she was struck by “her subtle barbs”.

“She wakes us as to how the ‘ownership’ (via naming ‘rights’) of Australian public lands and monuments lauds absent white English royalty and intrepid god-fearing discoverers.”

How ironic that a lane in Carlton bears her name. •

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