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1.5m x 2.5m

Most would agree that the musicals of the 1940s and 50s are generally popular with residents living in care. Most residents enjoy a sing-a-long whilst others are happy just to listen or beat time to the music with their feet. The theme of the Getting to Know You artwork was decided in the very early days of the project, just as I was beginning to get to know each participant. The project’s name suddenly emerged when I arrived at the facility one morning and overheard the overture medley of tunes from The King and I soundtrack, entertaining residents’ in their lounge room.


Led by an activity worker, the residents are in their chairs, and as the last notes fade, they sit in quiet anticipation of the next offering. Very soon the opening notes of a new song are audible, and after the first few bars when a familiar tune become recognizable, one or two residents launch into full song. Buoyed by enthusiasm, the other listeners are soon mouthing the words to the chorus and their hands sway in time to the music. The King and I is also a favourite from my childhood. I soon find myself singing along too. In the process I realize that I am getting to know each of my fellow singers better.


The Getting to Know You artwork celebrates the life and times of the participants through popular songs from their heyday. It is not a complex work, but the colours harmonize and could be said to sing in time to their own beat. The two central figures loom through a ship’s porthole. This man and woman represent the migrant experience, on the sea journey of a lifetime to Australia, on the other side of the world. They sing with anticipation of a new life beyond the European battlefields. They sing to set the scene.


The Nixon residents come from all corners of the globe. The swaying coconut palms represent idyllic childhoods spent in the Seychelles and Mauritius and Ceylon, or the war service memories of returned soldiers, who served in Bouganville and behind enemy lines in Borneo during World War 2. “Anchors Away” acknowledges the Royal Navy Submarine Corp and the sacrifice of the fighting men and women of the Royal Australian Navy.

The blue birds symbolize leaving Great Britain and sadness in biding farewell to its white cliffs for the last time. They also acknowledge the Nixon Hostel, ex-service personnel who served with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force and others within the resident community who journeyed from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to make Australia their new home.


The Home Sweet Home panel is symbolic of a human desire to live in peace and harmony, and to forge new friendships in the hope that sharing life’s triumphs and tragedies over a cup of tea will somehow ease the burden. We try and stay in tune and dance in step with our partners along the road through life. As we age, we look forward to time spent sipping drinks and relaxing in the sun, and we all hope for a peaceful experience at sunset when our boat’s red sails guide us safely into port at the end of our journey.

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