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Jan Mitchell’s Waterfront Bollards

No visitor to Geelong’s magnificent waterfront precinct can miss the whimsical bollards that stretch from Rippleside to Limeburners Point. Painted by local artist Jan Mitchell, the bollards have become an icon of Geelong. Sadly Jan is no longer with us but she has left a lasting legacy which will put a smile on just about anyone who comes face to face with these unique and much loved pieces of public art.

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There are over 100 bollards stretching along our waterfront that are made out of huge wooden pylons, many recovered from the Yarra Street Pier which was destroyed by fire in the 1980’s and later removed. The wood was first sculptured and then painstakingly hand painted. The bollards depict many of the events and history of the Geelong region, from the times when the local Wautharong People were the only inhabitants right up to modern times.

Many of the bollards are painted as historic people, including many of our founders and even former Premier Jeff Kennett and former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard, who were both in office when the bollards were being designed and installed. Favourites include explorer Mathew Flinders overlooking the bay he discovered in 1802, the historic Geelong Footballer near the old Hi-Lite Park site and the sailor and floozy near Cunningham Pier. Other tributes to historic moments in Geelong’s history include the Speed Trials bollards in Ritchie Boulevard, 1920’s lady swimmers on the sandy foreshore nearby and various sea captains and the rustic fisherman at Fisherman’s Pier.

The bollards were produced in a huge warehouse in an old wool store on the waterfront, where the new Deakin University school of nursing is located near Cunningham Pier. The program ran from 1999 and took several years to complete. Much research went into every detail of their design. The looks, clothing, artefacts and highlights all represent something about Geelong.

In 2009 the National Wool Museum in Brougham Street featured an exhibition playing tribute to Jan Mitchell, her visions, craftsmanship and magnificent bollard walk. It took visitors on a journey through the thinking behind the bollards, how they were made and how they have captured the imagination of Geelong and really helped give the city its new identity, which for so long was in the doldrums. The exhibition will be remembered for the making of another bollard, this time sadly without its original creator. Jan was also honoured in 2006 when she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her work on transforming the Geelong Waterfront.

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The bollards have become an important and very well recognised icon of Geelong over recent years. Our local tourist body even has had two installed outside the international terminal at Melbourne Airport to catch people’s attention and prompt them into thinking about coming to Geelong. They are a much loved photo opportunity for many international visitors, who spread the message of Geelong worldwide with their great digital snaps.

Barwon Heads features a troop of soldiers which are also painted by Jan Mitchell. They can be found along Geelong Road near the school crossing. These were painted before the Geelong Bollards were commissioned and became the inspiration behind the Geelong Baywalk Bollard project.