WAAAF Historic Walk
Berrigan Shire Council
The WAAAF Creek Walk project incorporates art, history and design to celebrate an overlooked part of Australian history and frame it for a contemporary audience.
The walk tells the history of the Women’s Australian Air Force Auxiliary Force (WAAAF). The project required extensive research and copywriting to discover and share the story of these pioneering Australian women.
About the WAAAF
When we first had the opportunity to tender for this project, like many people, I didn’t know much about the WAAAF. It didn’t take long to be inspired by the story of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force and the unprecedented and significant contribution that airwomen made to the war effort.
The WAAAF was established in 1941 and was the first and the largest of the Australian wartime women's services. Young airwomen were trained to fill highly skilled roles within the RAAF, becoming signals and intelligence operators, aircraft engineers, mechanics and armourists and 70 different jobs in the air force. In all areas, except pay and entitlements, airwomen were treated the same as the airmen.
Approximately 27,000 airwomen served on air force bases across Australia, and yet many people don’t know their story.
The goal when creating the walk was to capture and convey the remarkable spirit of the WAAAF and bring it to life. The start of the walk is marked by a large steel artwork that celebrates The Force that kept Austalia flying.
The idea behind the feature steel sculpture was to represent the way the WAAAF, through their many roles on the ground, supported the air force during the war. The women at the base of the sculture each contribute to the flight of the aircraft at the top of its flight path.
I wanted to represent the real diversity of these Airwomen and their work, so the Airwomen that form this sculpture, particularly their faces and uniforms, are based on photos of actual Airwomen in the WAAAF.
Stories about Tocumwal during the war always mention how planes were in the sky day and night. We wanted to evoke that feeling in this artwork by encouraging people to look up. One of the first things Airwomen were taught in their ‘rookies’ training was how to identify aircraft from their shape, so we wanted to somehow include a silhouette in the sky. The top of the sculpture features the sillhouette of a B-24 Liberator Bomber, the aircraft most commonly associated with Tocumwal.
The story of the WAAAF is told on panels along the walk. They feature photos that we have hand coloured to bring the story of the WAAAF to life today. The panels contain poetry, photographs and highlights of the history of the WAAAF.
There are not many photos of WAAAF doing their work, but we are lucky that several of those that do exist were taken here in Tocumwal. We’ve used those photos prominently along the walk.
Transparent panels along the walk are designed to create the illusion that the WAAAF still walk alongside us on the path.
Scope of work
The concept and design for the sculpture, signage and wayfinding was developed by Sivonne Creative, along with the research, copywriting, artwork and design for the interpretive panels. We also created the 3D technical drawings and renderings for engineering, steel manufacturing and installation.
The project was developed in collaboration with both Visattak and Riverina Allweld and was constructed locally in Deniliquin in 2021.