Arts and Culture

Lighting up the night

Story: April Spadina | Photo: Cody Fox

Late one night, just like the breeze that blows across K’gari and over the shores of the Fraser Coast, Erica Neate swept in to Dundowran in a serendipitous flurry. She chose the safe waters of Hervey Bay so her young family could frolic in the ocean and enjoy the beautiful coastal environment they have called home for the past thirty five years.

Upon arriving Erica familiarised herself with the local Butchulla people and realised quickly there was little public representation of their indigenous art and culture. With a natural skill for organising, Erica assembled the very first exclusively-Aboriginal art exhibition at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery. It was the start of rich connection of souls and over the years the relationships have grown to become a strong bind in her community.

Erica is a busy creature and involves herself and others in events that bring peace and joy to those around her. She laughs as she explains her “proactive participation process” which is fancy way of saying she “bosses people around”. It’s her unique way of getting people involved and helping them to discover their hidden talents that brings out the best in the community. She loves creating little ripples that grow in to waves, and is a strong advocate for inclusivity and cultural diversity. Her portfolio is impressively extensive and as a result of her community involvement she has received a number of public recognition awards.

They say if you want a job done, ask a busy person. So when the Butchulla people were invited to lead the parade at the upcoming Whale Festival in July, Erica and her partner Jon Vea Vea were welcomed to coordinate the lantern making workshops.  Funding was obtained and the wheels were quickly set in motion to work with artists and community members of all ages to build the paper lanterns that will light up the night.

Erica is one of those souls who finds invisible strengths in the world, in nature, culture and people. She walks through life with open arms and welcomes others to embrace more fully our shared journey on Planet Earth. Those little ripples she creates are ever present, becoming waves throughout the community. And just like the cool sea breeze over K’gari, Erica Neate is an eternal part of the Fraser Coast.

The Whale Festival ‘Parade of Lights’ takes place on Saturday 5 August, 2023. Visit the website for more info.

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