The Sunrise State

Artist Craig Layer created 'The Sunrise State' artwork in 2022 for Destination NSW.


In 2022, Destination NSW commissioned an artwork by Aboriginal artist Craig Layer to confirm our commitment to reconciliation.

It was created as a symbol of the enduring partnership between Destination NSW and NSW Aboriginal Tourism Operators Council (NATOC) and to acknowledge the contribution that Aboriginal culture makes to the growth and sustainability of the NSW visitor economy.

The theme of the artwork - The Sunrise State - is centered around the idea that NSW is the first to witness and benefit from the rising sun. The Sunrise State also represents cultural connections of First Nations People on the East Coast and inland NSW.

The story consists of the following elements:

  • The rising sun in the centre is connected to and impacts on everything around it, providing light, warmth and life.
  • The centre line breaks the land and sea but is connected by seven circles or meeting places that have a two-fold meaning.
  • The two meeting places in the middle represent Destination NSW and the NSW Aboriginal Tourism Operators Council, with the other six representing the various regions throughout NSW, and the communities in those regions.
  • The two centre meeting places are outlined in red, while the other meeting places are in varying shades of white to red. This is in harmony with the story of the Red Waratah, our state symbol.
  • The symbol inside each meeting place represents our First Nation Elders/Lore keepers and connects the Songlines and mobs along the East Coast and inland NSW by means of the journey lines that connect all the various elements of the story.
  • The animals scattered throughout both land and sea represent the various Aboriginal Nations throughout NSW and the strong connection First Nations People have to their traditional land. They are also connected to the line of Elders and Songlines.
  • Symbols representing scar trees are also scattered throughout the story, symbolising the respect for cultural borders that both separate and connect one mob to another.
  • The three rivers connect Saltwater and Freshwater People and the life that each river system brings to our country like arteries from our heart (land). They both give and sustain life.
  • The mountain ranges represent important cultural areas such as Mt Gulaga, Mt Yengo, the Blue Mountains and Three Brothers.
  • The handprints represent the extensive artwork found in these mountains and cave systems and the existence of significant cultural and ceremonial sites.
  • The background ochre colours represent the variety of landscapes including the desert and outback regions of NSW.
  • The migrating whales move in both directions, symbolising the renewal and continuum of life, and the strong cultural connection the migrations have for First Nations People.

Destination NSW staff and visitors can view the artwork at our Head Office foyer, on level 2 at 88 Cumberland Street, Sydney.

The artist

Craig Layer is the CEO of NATOC and a descendant of the Wanaruah people – a proud Aboriginal nation from the Hunter Valley region of NSW.

Through his art Craig anigunya (welcomes) you to the diversity and richness of the land of his ancestors, an area of mountain ranges and deep valleys, life-giving rivers and estuaries that have provided abundance for all the Nations of the Hunter region.

Each of Craig’s paintings is a story that unfolds before your eyes, bringing the ancient culture of the Wanaruah people to life in today’s modern world. But more than that, Craig’s paintings are also a journey of his own self discovery as he reconnects with his cultural heritage.