Kangaroo Islanders have chipped in to create a new sculpture in Penneshaw as a tribute to island resident and inspirational leader Sarah Strong-Law, who died in a car crash in February this year.

The Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail committee will commission an artist soon and begin the project to honour the woman best known for starting the Adelaide Roller Derby but who was also an island leader whose dedication was woven into every local project over the decade she lived on KI.

The committee raised more than $31,000 to create the sculpture for Sarah, surpassing their goal of $30,000.

Sarah’s husband Boone Law says the extended family is “truly inspired by the incredible generosity that has been gifted towards dedicating a sculpture in memory of Sarah”.

Sarah’s love for the island and her aim to inspire and support women all around the world is evident on the Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail that meant so much to her, and her sculpture will one day stand alongside many other projects she was involved in since she arrived in Australia.

Texas-born Sarah was a natural leader and was always heavily involved in sports and community activities in her home country.

When she took a leap of faith in 2006 and moved from the United States to Adelaide with her husband, she suddenly found herself knowing absolutely no one a whole world away.

“One day I came home from work, and she told me she had been sitting on a bench at Glenelg all day looking at the ocean, realising for the first time the feeling of being really lonely,” Boone says.

“[Realising] she was totally anonymous in a city and didn’t have a community.

“So she decided she was going to make one.”

Sarah set out to bring Roller Derby to Adelaide and used her graphic design background to create and distribute flyers around town, inviting would-be skaters to meet at the iconic Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton.

People showed up, and Sarah founded and started the Adelaide Roller Derby League in 2007 with them. A community that played hard and helped each other out, this was a large group of strong and independent women representing every profession. Sarah, who competed under the name Barrelhouse Bessy, had her community.

The couple fell in love with Kangaroo Island a few years later and decided to build a stone house with their own hands.

In 2012, they moved there full-time, with Sarah actively volunteering wherever she could, getting herself heavily involved within the Penneshaw community and using her event management skills to elevate projects and create meaningful connections.

“Sarah loved people, and she had a passion for creating strong communities,” Boone says.

About five years ago, the mother of one became one of the founding members of the Kangaroo Island Sculpture Trail.

An undeveloped and disused piece of public land in Penneshaw, perfect to beautify, was chosen and mapped out for the trail. Working with an army of volunteers and artists, the Penneshaw locals then carved out a sculpture trail worthy of international recognition.

The Sculpture Trail aimed to build economic development in town, support local artists, involve communities, care for the environment, engage children and build community pride.

Always free to use, over the years the trail has attracted a large number of hikers, locals and visitors who enjoy the serenity and pieces of art along the walk.

Sarah, who was also instrumental in organising the first ‘Tunes in the Dunes’ event in 2021, then worked with local KI weaver and artist Matt Nettheim in September 2021 to develop an art project to promote mental health in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires.

Working with your hands was something the 42-year-old mum valued and, like Matt, she saw weaving as a naturally meditative experience worthy of sharing. Building on this idea, she applied for a Wellbeing SA grant on behalf of the KI Sculpture Trail. The application was successful and the “The Rattle Tree” project was born.

Friend and co-founder of the KI Sculpture Trail, Jayne Bates says 220 people attended Matt’s basket weaving and rattle-making workshops Sarah organised across the island during the Easter holidays – after the car crash.

“The Rattle Tree became the gift she left behind to help the community in a way,” Jayne says.

The baskets were gifted to fire-affected residents to bring new hope two years on. The rattles were ceremoniously hung in a blackthorn tree, transforming it into “The Rattle Tree”, a new and dynamic sculpture of kinetic art for the Sculpture Trail.

Today, the tree full of hand-made rattles is forever moving in the wind, singing her song and doing exactly what Sarah did to everyone around her every day: healing the community and making people happy.Bottom of Form

Sarah’s story and the community efforts behind ‘The Rattle Tree’ were captured by local filmmaker Daniel Clarke, who produced a 10-minute documentary on the project. The short film and progress updates on the new sculpture in Sarah’s honour can be found on the KI Sculpture Trail website and related social media sites.

Words: Sabrina Davis
Image: A sculpture will be commissioned to honour KI leader Sarah Strong-Law, seen here with husband Boone and their daughter