The forgotten mural at Melbourne Central station

For most rail passengers passing through Melbourne Central, their main point of access is the Swanston Street entrance – it connects directly to the main atrium of the adjacent shopping centre, and lead towards the largest number of tram connections. However if you take the Elizabeth Street entrance, you’ll find something different on the concourse.

Ticket barriers at the Elizabeth Street end of Melbourne Central

Stretching 61 metres long and 3.7 metres high, this mural spans two walls of the otherwise empty concourse, and depicts male and female workers from a range of occupations.

Measuring 61.0 metres in length and 3.7 metres in height, or 225.7 square metres

Mural on the wall of the Elizabeth Street concourse of Melbourne Central

The mural is classified by the National Trust at the state level (reference number B6821) – the statement of significance is as follows:

Conceived in 1983 and completed in 1984, the mural was produced by a small team of artists from the Victorian Trades Hall Council Arts Workshop, headed by Dr Geoff Hogg (b. 1950) with assistance from Ilma Jasper (b. 1953) and sculptor Kay Douglas (b. 1952). It is painted over an expanse of wall measuring approximately 61.0 metres in length and 3.7 metres in height, or 225.7 square metres.

The mural depicts a complex tableau of male and female workers from a range of occupations – trades and professions, paid and domestic – including engineers, biomedical researchers, electricians, machinists, hotel cleaners and textile workers. Interwoven among these figures are circular cogs and wheels and diagonal girders used as unifying elements.

The mural was painted in situ directly onto the station concourse wall. The otherwise flat surface of the wall was broken up for aesthetic reasons through the introduction of areas of impasto surfaces and wooden relief sections made by Kay Douglas.

In the years since it was completed, the only change has been at the eastern end of the mural, where the construction of a KFC restaurant during the 2005 station redevelopment led to part of the mural disappearing inside their kitchen.

Abandoned KFC service window facing into the paid area at Melbourne Central Station

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2 Responses to “The forgotten mural at Melbourne Central station”

  1. Andrew says:

    I have entered and exited a few times from and to Elizabeth Street, but I have never seen the mural. Given the lack of people in the photo, it must be in an obscure place. How was KFC allowed to partially cover up a work classified by the National Trust?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      For passengers the back wall is easy to ignore – once leaving the escalators the ticket barriers are in the opposite direction.

      As for the National Trust listing, it doesn’t hold any legal sway – it is just a recognition that the item is of significance:

      A place has to be listed on a local council Heritage Overlay or the Victorian Heritage Register in order for the government to become involved.

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