STEM in Public ArtKey Idea 3: Measurement and Data

STEM practices focus on ways of thinking, knowing, and doing. They include dimensions that support greater depth of thinking and learning. The measurement and data dimension is a key theme in the artworks of Susan Hewitt, Penelope Lee and Keg de Souza. This dimension looks at aspects such as the use of appropriate units of measurement and the collection, interpretation, and presentation of data. The length of Hewitt and Lee’s sculpture is a dominant element in their work. Its structure rolls for a span of 20 metres and its impressive length unfurls like a roll of paper seemingly defying physics. De Souza’s sculpture incorporates the use of data to identify drastic decreases in native vegetation which in this ephemeral artwork, informs the planting of native grassland and aromatic flowers.

Key Artworks

Penny Lee and Susan Hewitt, Great Petition, 2008, steel, bluestone. 20 m (length); height variable. Commissioned by the Victorian government through Arts Victoria, the Community Support Fund and the Office of Women's Policy in collaboration with the City of Melbourne, 2008. City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection

Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee
Great Petition
Location: Macarthur Street, Burston Reserve, East Melbourne (near Parliament House)
Photographer: Unknown

Rolled steel, bluestone

Key Themes: Commemoration, history, political art

Key STEM dimensions: Relationships, Structure and Function, Measurement and Data
The focus on community and peoples’ relationships underpins this artwork which brings together politicians, Aboriginal women’s groups, regional women’s associations, teachers and students. Rolled steel forms a structure that rolls for a span measuring 20 metres like an unfurling roll of white paper that seems to defy physics. 

Artwork context
Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee were commissioned to create the Great Petition to commemorate voting rights for women in 2008, marking the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in Victoria. Passed in 1908 the Suffrage Act did not include First Nations women. This work marks an important step in Australia’s political history towards equality and what the future might hold for all Australians. 

Made from rolled steel, this twenty metre long work emerges from the ground and spills out across Burston Reserve like an unfurling roll of white paper. The physical mass of the sculpture is undetectable as the ribbons of steel fold weightlessly upon itself, seeming to defy physics. The work represents the ‘Monster Petition’ of 30,000 names presented to parliament in late 1891, collected in six weeks to demonstrate public support for women’s right to vote. This sculpture itself walks a line for the artists between creating a work that is both commemorative, artistic and contemporary.

Community consultation was a key process underpinning the development of this work. The artists spoke in depth with women, politicians, Aboriginal women’s groups, students, teachers, and rural and regional women’s associations. 

This work is installed at Burston Reserve, close to the centre of Melbourne’s parliament precinct. Its presence serves as a permanent reminder of Australian women’s stories and struggles, their place in history and the power of standing up for your beliefs.

‘You feel a big responsibility with these commissions because they need to be both commemorative and artistic. You’re also capturing a big story and representing the broader community.’  Penelope Lee

Historical context
In an extraordinary effort to gain the right to vote for non-indigenous Victorian women, a handful of dedicated women took to the streets in 1891 to collect signatures for a petition to present to the Parliament of Victoria. The result was an impressive collection of close to 30,000 signatures from women from all walks of life. Known as the ‘monster petition’, signed pages were glued to the sewn strips of calico the length of which was 260 metres. 

Tabled in Parliament in September 1891 with the support of then Premier James Munro, the petition sought that ‘Women should Vote on Equal terms with Men’. Following the delivery of the petition to Victoria’s Parliament House, the Women’s Franchise Bill was put forward. The Lower House passed the Bill but the Upper House rejected it. This was the first of 19 Bills regarding women’s right to vote to be put forward and rejected. It wasn’t until 17 years later in 1908 that the Adult Suffrage Act was passed in Victoria.

While the Act allowed non-Indigenous Victorian women the right to vote, universal suffrage for all First Peoples in Australia would not be achieved until the late twentieth century. The 1967 referendum recognised First Peoples as Australian citizens while equal voting rights weren’t effectively in place until 1984.

Inquiry questions:

  • Would you categorise this work as a sculpture or memorial? Explain why.
  • Suggest 3 different methods you could use to measure the length of the rolled steel in this work.
  • How do you imagine the artists designed and tested the strength and safety of this structure?
  • Consider something you are passionate about. What kind of sculpture would  you create to commemorate this?


Plan your own public artwork which commemorates a historical event or responds to a concern facing society today. Start by creating a one-page design proposal, drafting some key information or ideas explored in your work.

Identify a range of perspectives, people or organisations who should be consulted in the design of this work. Create a timeline incorporating the research or consultation required, as well as product testing, manufacturing, installing.

Begin your research by speaking with 5 different people in your class about your artwork proposal. Record their ideas and contributions, synthesising their advice or weighing up conflicting information to inform your design.


Plan a series of competitions between groups to create sculpture prototypes using only a 2m strip of paper (eg. an old receipt roll) and hair pins or paper clips to hold loops in place. 

Which design creates a sculpture that is the strongest, tallest, bounciest or most aesthetic?

STEM dimensions in these activities:
Relationships – a range of people, perspective or organisations are identified
Structure and function – sculpture prototypes using a 2m strip of paper
Measurement and data – timeline, product testing and manufacturing

Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee STEM Victorian curriculum links



Keg de Souza, Nganga toornung-nge dharraga Bunjil 2021–22. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Keg de Souza
toornung-nge dharraga Bunjil [Looking down from the wings of Bunjil]

Powder coated steel, net, native plants
600cm (diameter)
Courtesy of the artist. Commissioned by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne. Co-presented by Abbotsford Convent and ACCA, as part of ACCA’s long-term research project and exhibition Who’s Afraid of Public Space? 2021-22
Location: Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford (No longer on site)
Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Key Themes: Environment, ephemeral, seasonal, temporary, First Nations science 

Key STEM dimensions
: Measurement and Data, Systems, Relationships

Relationships are encouraged through fun and play with a native grassland learning-garden designed for all ages. Working within a support system of local advisers and suppliers, native grassland aromatic flowers have been planted as a result of data showing the drastic decrease of native grassland. 

Artwork context
Keg de Souza is an artist of Goan heritage (southwest India) who lives and works on unceded Gadigal land in Sydney. Architecturally trained, Keg de Souza’s practice activates social and community environments, making reference to her lived experiences of squatting and organising with projects that use temporary architecture, radical pedagogy and food politics. De Souza also draws on her personal experiences of colonialism, which informs her richly layered practice.

Commissioned for the Providence Lawn at Abbotsford Convent, Nganga toornung-nge dharraga Bunjil takes the form of a garden and play equipment. It is designed as ‘a grassland learning garden’ and a sculpture intended for climbing, play and relaxation for visitors of all ages. As a garden, Nganga toornung-nge dharraga Bunjil reflects de Souza’s interests in practices of rewilding colonised landscapes and the resistance of nature to taming and control. Working with local advisers and suppliers, the garden is populated with grasses and aromatic flowers that are endemic* to this area, where, ‘In Victoria’, as de Souza notes, ‘99.3% of native grassland areas have disappeared’.**

Keg de Souza’s artwork is an example of ephemeral public art that will become accessible only via photo documentation. The work was initially developed for one season of public display, being six months over summer and autumn. It was co-presented by Abbotsford Convent and ACCA as part of Who’s Afraid of Public Space? 2021-22 but remained until 2023 due to public reception and commitment from Abbotsford Convent. 

The sculpture offers an aerial perspective from which to view the native garden. The title of the work, Nganga toornung-nge dharraga Bunjil, is a Wurundjeri phrase roughly translated as ‘looking down from the wings of Bunjil’. The name was generously offered during de Souza’s consultations and conversations with Wurundjeri Elders and the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation. The artist extends her thanks to Uncle Dave Wandin, Aunty Gail Smith, Charley Woolmore, Zena Cumpston and Katherine Horsfall for advising on this project.

*endemic: native and restricted to a certain place, usually referring to a plant or animal

** Noted from a conversation Keg de Sousa and Barkandji woman Zena Cumpston, researcher and author of the ‘Indigenous plant use’ booklet exploring the cultural, nutritional, technological and medicinal use of indigenous plants.

Plants in the garden
Enchylaena tomentosa (Ruby Saltbush)
Disphyma crassifolium (Hot Stuff / Pig Face)
Calocephalus citreus (Lemon Beauty)
Microlaena stipoides (Weeping Grass)
Brachyscome multifida (Cut Leaf Daisy)
Leptorhynchos tenuifolius (Wiry Buttons)
Wahlenbergia capillaris (Blue Bell)
Rytidosperma racemosum (Wallaby Grass)
Chrysocephalum apiculatum (Common Everlasting)
Poa sieberiana (Grey Tussock Grass)
Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass)
Austrostipa elegantissima (Feather Grass)
Rytidosperma caespitosum (Common Wallaby Grass)
Poa labilliardieri – Yan Yean (Tall Tussock Grass)

Inquiry questions:

  • Why do you think this work is considered ephemeral?
  • What are some of the considerations that an artist needs to make if presenting a seasonal artwork?
  • Consider different ways audiences might engage with this work of public art. 
  • What roles and strategies do you think were involved to ensure public safety in the design and installation of this artwork?


Research the native grasses in your area, searching online, consulting with Traditional Owners, local councils, environmental groups, a school groundskeeper and/or local nurseries.

Choose one significant grass. Use a flow chart and other forms of graphical representation to show the use of this plant by humans and animals, its role in the ecosystem, as well as the impacts of colonisation, current human activity (including climate change) on this grass.

In groups or as a class, select an endangered local plant and create a revegetation strategy. Use project planning processes and consider nutrients and environmental conditions for the plant to thrive, the role of Traditional Owners and cultural practices, resource or budget limits, sustainability and long term impact, health and safety, legal issues, as well as public communication or advertising campaigns.


STEM dimensions in this activity
Measurement and data – flow charts are developed to show the use of grass
Systems – project planning processes consider nutrient and environment conditions
Relationships – research includes consulting with traditional owners, councils, environment groups, schools grounds keeper and local nurseries.

Keg de Souza STEM Victorian curriculum links

Support Material

Keg De Souza – ACCA online | Conversation on Experimental Institutionalism: Ecological with Keg de Souza and José Roca

Keg De Souza – artist website
Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee collaboration with Lump Sculpture Studio
Melbourne Public Art Trail – ACCA Education resource

Keg De Souza – Convivial City
Feminism(s) Plural and Evolving – ACCA Artfile



For Teachers

Primary activities

Activities are outlined with each artist’s work

Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee STEM Victorian curriculum links
Keg de Souza STEM Victorian curriculum links

Australian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Years F-6

Explore ideas and artworks from different cultures and times, including artwork by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, to use as inspiration for their own representations (ACAVAM106) (ACAVAM110) (ACAVAM114)

Use materials, techniques and processes to explore visual conventions when making artworks (ACAVAM107) (ACAVAM111) (ACAVAM115)

Create and display artworks to communicate ideas to an audience (ACAVAM108) (ACAVAM112) (ACAVAM116)

Victorian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Levels F-6

Explore and Express Ideas (VCAVAE013)(VCAVAE017) (VCAVAE021) (VCAVAE025) (VCAVAE029)
Visual Arts Practices (VCAVAV018) (VCAVAV022) (VCAVAV026) (VCAVAV030)
Present and Perform  (VCAVAP019) (VCAVAP023)(VCAVAP027)
Respond and Interpret (VCAVAR020) (VCAVAR024) (VCAVAR028) (VCAVAR032)


Curriculum Interpretation

The activities in this STEM Art File are intended to build students’ and teachers’ awareness of the many ways STEM is present in Contemporary Art practices. By enhancing knowledge and creating connections between Art, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths students deepen their understanding whilst expanding their creativity and critical thinking skills.

Secondary activities

Activities are outlined with each artist’s work

Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee STEM Victorian curriculum links
Keg de Souza STEM Victorian curriculum links

Australian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Years 7-10

Experiment with visual arts conventions and techniques (ACAVAM118(ACAVAM125)
Develop planning skills for art-making by exploring techniques and processes used by different artists  (ACAVAM120(ACAVAM127)
Practise techniques and processes to enhance representation of ideas in their art-making (ACAVAM121) ​​ (ACAVAM128)

Victorian Curriculum / Visual Arts / Levels 7-10

Explore and Express Ideas (VCAVAE033)(VCAVAE034)(VCAVAE040)(VCAVAE041)
Visual Arts Practices (VCAVAV035) (VCAVAV042)(VCAVAV036)(VCAVAV043)
Respond and Interpret (VCAVAR039)(VCAVAR046)

Curriculum Interpretation

The activities in this Art File are intended to build students’ and teachers’ awareness of the many ways STEM is embedded in contemporary art practices. By enhancing knowledge and creating connections between Art, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths students deepen their understanding whilst expanding their creativity and critical thinking skills. 

By undertaking these activities, students:

  • Explore and test new methods to produce three-dimensional artwork.
  • Learn about the advantages and challenges of producing artwork for public space.
  • Consider another artist’s process as inspiration for their own.
  • Experiment and problem-solve with diverse techniques and materials to create models and artworks.

Contact ACCA

This resource was developed by ACCA Education with the assistance of Joanne Heide (DATTA Vic).
The ACCA STEM in ART inquiry-based learning program is supported by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources with the assistance of DATTA Vic.