Painting commemorating Toad Hall flood unveiled

7 August 2018

A painting commemorating the power of Sullivan's Creek, which broke its banks and flooded sections of the University campus including Toad Hall in February 2018, was unveiled at a special event with residents to mark the start of Semester 2 study.

Painted by Toad Hall alumna and Indigenous artist and scholar Dr Jessa Rogers, the artwork was unveiled by Dr Rogers, the Head of Toad Hall Dr Ian Walker and ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt.

"As the waters approached the campus under Barry Drive, Toad Hall took the force of the torrent, damaging carpet, walls, couches and chairs and some of our ground floor student rooms," Professor Schmidt said, at the event.

The Hall, made up of 90 per cent international students, was almost full at the time.

"But in the true spirit of the ANU community, the Hall's occupants and leaders took swift and effective action as water continued to inundate their home.

"Tonight is about recognising that community spirit and celebrating the Hall re-emerging from what I can only imagine was a very stressful event for our students and staff here," he said.

A special description was also unveiled next to the painting, which pays homage to the Hall's namesake and its linkages to the children's classic The Wind in the Willows. The painting represents the creek, Toad Hall and its colours as well as circles of community and connection.

Dr Ian Walker, Head of Toad Hall, said the painting has extra special significance given not only what it represents, but the fact that it was painted by alumna Jessa Rogers, who lived at the Hall when she came to ANU.

"All Indigenous art have things about creeks but they're usually dry and this was to reflect, more, the flood. And so it does represent, in many ways, the creek coming through the Hall and around the Hall," he said.

While most of the student rooms were unaffected in the flood, the Hall's common areas - all located on the ground floor - were flood damaged.

"It took us a semester to get things pretty much back together again with new carpet and couches, painting and repair. The community has dealt with it well.

"Being their home, that can be a bit frustrating if you don't have things around and available that you did have. But people understood and made the most of it."

Dr Walker said he was heartened to see the community coordinators and leaders swing into action immediately after the flood by helping to move students, whose rooms were affected, from the ground floor up to the first floor.

At one point, it was also unclear whether the water level would rise higher.

"But people did rally together," he said, noting that some of the residents of the Hall didn't see the flood as a problem.

"Some of our residents, who come from certain parts of the world, said 'this happens all the time, what's the big deal, we're kind of used to this'."

Dr Walker said Toad Hall has the motto 'unity and diversity' and semester 1 proved they had 'unity and adversity'.

"And we showed how strong a community can be; that the nature of community in all our residences is really important in sharing and caring for each other, and that was clearly demonstrated last semester. And that's the spirit we see exemplified in Toad Hall as a mainly international graduate residential family."


A description of the painting, which sits alongside the artwork, reads: 

This painting by Toad Hall alumna and Indigenous artist and scholar

Dr Jessa Rogers

commemorates the flooding of Sullivan's Creek on 25th February 2018 when, as noted by ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, "water lapped into Toad Hall, turned benign by a community bound together by the 'Wind in the Willows' edict that there is nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats." She quoted words of Ngunnawal Elder Uncle Carl Brown: "Never underestimate the power of the creek!"

Sullivan's Creek has watered, fed and nurtured living and learning communities for thousands of years. It is the 'river' of Toad Hall, described in 'The Wind in the Willows' as "a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea."

The painting represents the creek, the Hall and its colours; stories and songlines; circles of community and connection; and the emu seen in the 'Milky Way' and depicted in aboriginal rock carvings at Yankee Hat in the Namadgi National Park, Canberra.


Unveiled by ANU Vice-Chancellor and Nobel Laureate,

Professor Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS on 2nd August 2018.