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The Beagle Bay Church Restoration, Dampier Peninsula, Kimberly Coast, W.A.

Beagle Bay is the home of the Nyul Nyul people who are the traditional owners of the land in this area. The bay was named by JC Whickham in 1838 while on board the HMS Beagle. A Catholic mission and school was first established by the Trappist Fathers at Beagle Bay in 1892. In 2010 artists Gina Wade and Dot Colgan restored the interior of the iconic, heritage listed Sacred Heart Church at Beagle Bay in the Kimberley's, WA. This church hosts 70 to 80 tourist's per day 7 days a week.

The construction of the present church began in 1915 by the local community, from a photograph of one of the German father's village churches in his homeland. The building originally took 3 years to build and decorate, constructed from hand fired bricks and locally made render, with bush timber and plaster lathe ceilings, which were later replaced with tin obtained from containers. T

he resulting work is a fusion of traditional Nyul Nyul, Mimanborr and Bard symbols and materials with traditional Christian symbols and European mosaic technique resulting in a unique expression of art and faith.

To either side of the sanctuary are two smaller altars of Our Lady and St Joseph which were badly in need of restoration. The lower sections of these altars had to be demolished and rebuilt.

This was done by careful recording of all artwork, and with the help of archival photos together with cataloging of all shells. Artwork panels had to be completely stripped down to the original pencil drawings, recorded and carefully painted back. As many shells as were possible were replaced after being cleaned and with the aid of the traditional owners, new shells were gathered.

The WA Heritage Council approved all areas of the work as it progressed. The restored altars are a fusion of art work and mosaic shell work and each altar features hand painted floral panels and rare shells; the central altar is original. Gina chose to use Jo Sonja paints, sealer and varnish which she has used in artwork and teaching over the past 14 years. Her experience and satisfaction with the product is extensive and Gina was pleased with their performance in this case and colours were matched without any problems. Gina’s report on the restoration is logged with the architects in Broome, W.A. and will be used as a reference for any further restoration work.