Rubbish Art cleans up big prizes

Years of collecting washed up ocean rubbish from around Australia and a creative eye has proved profitable for Heather Johnston at this year’s Fraser Coast Waste to Art competition. 

SOMETHING FISHY: Heather Johnson shows off her winning sculpture in Category 1 of the 2022 Fraser Coast Waste to Art competition. PHOTO: Supplied.

Ms Johnston took the top spot of Category 1 (Over 18) at the competition with her 2.5m fish sculpture, ‘Marine Debris Debi’.

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After spending much of the year caring for her mother who passed away four weeks ago, Heather returned to create the art in just three weeks. 

“I was waking up at 5am in the morning to work on it, sewing and moulding the chicken wire,” she said.

Ms Johnston who usually works with water colours said Debi was a passion project. 

Category 2 (12-17 years) was won by friends Tilly Stewart and Alyssa Rose.

Their work ‘Deforestation a Losing Battle’ was created at school with the materials sourced from home and opportunity shops.

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Coined by the girls as Garry the Gullah, their sculpture is composed of half metal and half paper materials. Despite this being the first work that the pair created together, they said they worked well with no arguments.

Tilly said it was important for people to rethink waste and how to minimise their environmental footprint.

“I think it is very important for young people around the world to think about their environmental impact as we face climate change and our world is deteriorating as we speak,” she said. “People need to understand the implications of their actions.”

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Alissa said the highlight of the competition had been the artistic process of creating the work. 

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The winners of the Fraser Coast Regional Council’s 2022 Waste to Art Competition include: 

Category 1 (18 years and over)

First – Heather Johnston for ‘Marine Debris Debi’ 
Second – Mindy Moore for ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ 
Third – Testimony Arts – The Maryborough Creative Industries, Social Enterprise, Restoration and Repair Program for ‘The 4650 Cloak’ 

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Category 2 (12-17 years) 

First – Tilly Stewart and Alyssa Rose of St James Lutheran College for ‘Deforestation – A losing battle’ 
Second – Mackenzie Sullivan, Dakota Tye and Jayde Tones of Aldridge State High School for ‘All seasons’ 
Third – Kianna Budd, Jenna Nichols and Cinta Richards of Urangan State High School for ‘Table of Lost Things’ 

Category 3 (8-11 years) 

First – Ruby Charles for ‘A Hedgehog Christmas’ 
Second – Tobias Outred, Charlee Sandars, Coco Davis, Archie Bielenberg and Zac Samuels of Soulfusion Therapies for ‘Peek-A-Blue’ 
Third – Summer Osborne for ‘Rise of the Minion’ 

Category 4 (under 8 years) 

First – Hugh Muller for ‘Spike the Smart Echidna’ 
Second – Busy Bees Fraser Coast for ‘Pollination Station’ 
Third – Bay Explorers Early Learning Centre Urangan for ‘Under the sea’

Council thanks the 2022 sponsors who helped stage the competition: Cleanaway, Hyne Timber, Reuse & Recycle Group and NuGrow.

The Waste to Art exhibition is open until 8 January 2023 at Gatakers Artspace in Maryborough. 

Community members are encouraged to check out the more than 150 artworks and place a vote for their favourite to win the People’s Choice Award.

For more information go to

Press release issued by Fraser Coast Regional Council, 15 November 2022.

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