A very special painting for Very Special Kids House

Darren's painting of the Rainbow Serpent. A snake is surrounded by bush flowers and hundreds of dots

Darren took up painting around the time his first child, a baby girl named Macey, was born.

A proud Murri man from Charleville in southwest Queensland, Darren’s early schooldays and books on Dreamtime stories, combined with a move to Melbourne, where he connected with his cultural brothers and sisters, grew his interest in his Aboriginal culture and background.

Self-taught, his paintings would often feature many characters from Dreamtime stories; the Goanna, the Honey Ant, the Moth – “just stuff that affects me and brings my thoughts out onto the canvas,” Darren explains.

When Macey was 9, she became sick. Tests revealed she had medulloblastoma, a type of cancerous brain tumour found in children. Macey underwent a successful operation, then chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and was eventually given a clean bill of health.

Pictured: Macey

Unfortunately, within six months the cancer had not only returned, but had spread throughout her body. It was then her family knew they had to prepare for the end of her life.

“We thought we could do everything at home for Macey, for end of life, and it was way too much . . . We got to a point where we couldn’t do it anymore. We rang Very Special Kids up and you took us in with open arms and helped us amazingly at the time.”

Macey was admitted to the Very Special Kids hospice for end-of-life care, while her family stayed nearby at our family accommodation. It was during this time that Darren started working on a painting of the Rainbow Serpent: the creator of life.

Pictured: Darren’s Rainbow Serpent painting

Painted during one of the darkest periods a person can experience, Darren’s artwork focused on the light. It is full of blues, yellows, purples and reds. The serpent is surrounded by bush flowers – something Darren enjoyed painting thanks to his experience as a landscape gardener – and hundreds of equally sized dots, a common technique used by Aboriginal artists in the southern parts of Australia.

While Darren’s paintings may not follow one Aboriginal community’s set of rules, he feels there’s nothing wrong with artists learning from one another.

“It all comes down to what they feel and see that they want to put on a canvas. It’s art, it’s our art, it’s our Dreamtime. It’s what we like to share and see to give to people to enjoy.”

Macey sadly died in 2015 at the Very Special Kids hospice, one day after her 11th birthday. Shortly after, Darren finished his painting and decided to gift it to Very Special Kids.

“It was after Macey had passed away, I’d finished it off and it had to go to something special. It wasn’t meant to go to anyone else because it was done when Macey was going through the worst period of time for us. Being involved with Very Special Kids and the help and support – it was a good place to leave it.”

Since that day, this very special Rainbow Serpent painting has hung proudly at Very Special Kids, first in our hospice, then our temporary space at Monash Children’s Hospital.

We look forward to finding it a place of honour at our new hospice, the Sister Margaret Noone Hospice at Very Special Kids House, when it opens in the coming weeks.