Mandurah Bush Hermit

‘A holiday cottage owner has found that the Mandurah hermit has taken a particular liking to his cottage. Twice in the past month the hermit has broken into the cottage and the second time he stayed for at least three or four days’

Perth Daily News, Vol 84, No 27,980 No date listing.

Mary Ann Rath was captivated by the story of Robert Alexander Cruikshank, commonly known as the Mandurah Bush Hermit in the archival files at the Mandurah Community Museum. His housebreaking activity and consequent police chase compelled Rath to question the reasons behind Cruikshank’s behaviour. The lines of thought queried that Cruikshank was homeless, unemployed, kicked out of home, a Vietnam veteran, had a mental health issue or was it choice? The media and community label of ‘Bush Hermit’ also required examination.

A ‘hermit’ is a type of humming bird who continuously moves from flower to flower and is used metaphorically in exploring this body of work. Cruikshank’s words upon capture were “Thank God that is over” and then asked for a cigarette, leading Rath to believe that Cruikshank did not choose to be homeless. Rath is forever grateful for a roof over her head.

Mary Ann Rath is a multimedia conceptual artist whose practice predominantly focuses on environmental or social issues. Rath’s earlier art practice aligned with a nursing career. Rath’s passion also included teaching children in the public system the virtues of kindness, sharing and the Jesus stories through song, puppet plays, drama and storytelling. Now that Rath has retired, the portfolio of creative expression has broadened to include painting, sculpture, up cycling and verse.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ross De Hoog and Lyn Nixon