Melbourne’s first new high-capacity Metro train will start running on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines this year. But its additional 20 per cent capacity isn’t the only thing to get excited about. It will also become a 160-metre long canvas featuring the work of Indigenous artists – and the shortlist has just been announced.

Finalists include Kirrae Whurrong woman Fiona Clarke, Boon Wurrung man Adam Magennis, Wurundjeri woman Mandy Nicholson and the Ballarat-based Pitcha Makin Fellas – a group of three Koori men representing different language groups whose work has featured at White Night Melbourne and White Night Ballarat.

The winner will be decided later this month by a panel of representatives from Victorian First Peoples communities, and the winning design will feature on the first seven-carriage train put into service.

Designs under consideration include a series of colourful clock faces, and symbols representing Melbourne landmarks and the diverse cultures that make up the Kulin Nations.

Shortlisted artist Mandy Nicholson wants Indigenous culture to be more visible in city environments.

“It’s really up to us to make ourselves visible,” Nicholson tells Broadsheet. “When I talk about Aboriginal culture I never talk about it in past tense. I talk about the history, but also about being here, today, alive, and then into the future with our next generation.”

Nicholson is a cultural educator and Woiwurrung language specialist – her art was featured on a Melbourne tram in 2018. She says we perceive Aboriginal country differently when it’s blanketed by a city.

“It’s still our traditional country, but I look through all the buildings and I see what’s underneath,” says Nicholson. “You often hear people talking about sacred sites. Well, I see the whole of Australia as a sacred site.

“Just because you don’t see an Aboriginal person walking down the street, it doesn’t mean we’re not there.”

Aboriginal art has appeared on trams in Melbourne and Bendigo before, but this is the first time works of this kind will appear on a Victorian train.

All 65 of the new high-capacity trains are scheduled to be introduced by 2023. More information can be found at transport.vic.gov.au.