Ngardarb Francine Riches helps people heal through the arts

Photo: Damjan Janevski

This Maribyrnong artist helps people heal through the arts … recent citizen of the year Ngardarb Francine Riches talks to Benjamin Millar about NAIDOC Week and how it is a chance for people to understand Aboriginal love for this country.


What is your connection to Maribyrnong?

My family and I have been living in Maribyrnong for seven years now, but I have been around, back and forth, for more than 30 years.

My connection to Maribyrnong started with the Maribyrnong High School and Sporting Academy, with my son attending there for a few years.


What do you love most about the area?

I love living in this area for many reasons.

It’s near the Maribyrnong River, its link to the past with Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West in Pipemakers Park, and the connection and significance it has to the traditional owners of this land, the Boonwurung and Wurundjeri people.

I like the easy access to a large shopping centre, and many cafés and restaurants, the multicultural atmosphere and people who live and work together.


What is your favourite local café or eatery?

My favourite café is the Happy River Café down at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, and my favourite restaurant is Jimmy Wong’s on Barkly Street.


What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about my faith and my visual arts practice, giving people opportunities to discover visual arts therapy.

I run a weekly Aboriginal arts group down at the Living Museum of the West, in Pipemakers Park in Maribyrnong, where we are exploring ‘healing through the arts’.


Why is NAIDOC Week important?

NAIDOC Week is a celebration of our culture as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which we celebrate each year.

We invite everyone to go along to the flag-raising events and activities that are planned.

This is where you will hear first-hand about our rich culture and heritage.

I encourage people to see Australia from our lens, and understand why we love this country.


What has been your biggest inspiration?

As a visual artist, my biggest inspiration comes from what I see around me in nature what I believe God has given us.

Spending time down by the ocean, river or in the hills and in the bush refreshes my spirit.