A childhood on the plains of Victoria’s Western District informs the work of artist and conservationist Richard Weatherly OAM.

Story Gretel Sneath  Photo Cormac Hanrahan

The yellow-tailed black cockatoos soar high above the Serra Range of the Southern Grampians, seven free spirits captured in exquisite detail by artist Richard Weatherly’s finest brushstrokes. “What other species displays such delight in their power of flight?” Richard asks. “I wanted to achieve a sense of being up there with them as they waft along, crisscrossing each other’s paths, plunging through Teddy Bear Gap to the plains country beyond.”

It has taken Richard more than four decades to bring this breathtaking scene to life; he first sketched it in January 1974 and it has been razed by wildfire twice since then. The tombstone-like rocks in the foreground remained the only constant, symbolising both stability and the mortality of the fragile ecosystem in equal measure.“I went back and redrew and recorrected the drawings on three occasions, battling through the scrub, and I also changed the design several times; it just sat in the studio unfinished,” Richard says. 

The cockatoos arrived mid-flight, a symbol of recovery from adversity, almost cheering him to the finish line with their breezy resilience – a reminder to rise above the obstacles, for life goes on. 

The completed work now hangs at Richard and his wife Jenny’s Bellarine Peninsula home, and serves as a striking parallel to the couple’s own farming story – the spectacular revival of their property Connewarran, near Mortlake in Victoria’s Western District. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #121

Outback Magazine: October/November 2018