Where it all began
Whilst art as always been innately with me, art as not always been the centre of my culture and it would be during my teenage years that I would begin to understand the significance of how art is an enormous part of being Aboriginal.
In the Aboriginal culture, art was the centricity tool that elders used to hand down knowledge and song lines to the younger generation. The elder’s knowledge and song lines date backs to thousands of years and was passed down through the generations from their ancestors.
Art was a form of storytelling and many Aboriginal artist, including myself have used the brush to paint stories of our Aboriginal culture and history.
"Art is a powerful median that brings life to a blank canvas where the artist can paint, draw and create pictures that can speak a thousand words."
During my childhood I remember growing up in Katanning, Western Australia with my parents and six siblings, living in a house and going to school. I remember dad going to work and mum staying at home and taking care of the family. My childhood was unassuming, and I just assumed every family was the same. Then as you get older you begin to see life through different lenses and then realise that there are so many differences in life.
I did not know the deep truth of my own history until I attended university and came to realise that life was not easy and very unkind for Aboriginal people in Australia. I later learnt that my parents did not live in a house as a child and had grew up on what was known as Reserves. (Reserves were land allocated by the government for Aboriginal people to live on, there was no houses, only bushland).
I guess in a sense our parents had sheltered us from the truth as I do not recall my parents ever talking about the hardships and poverty that they had experience as an Aboriginal person growing up in Australia.
Fast forward to the 1980’s and I remember as a young child between 5 – 6 years old and my parents packing up our home in Katanning and moving to a place called Marribank Mission. I had never heard of Marribank Mission before and began thinking, oh we must be moving a long, long way away.
The first memory I have of driving to Marribank Mission was that it was on a windy dusty road and there were trees everywhere you turned your head. It felt as if we were driving into obsolete, where there were no streetlights, no shops, no houses, nothing. Finally, we drove over an old bridge and kept on driving for another kilometre and there it emerged one house, then two, then another and another. This was Marribank Mission, located approximately 25 kilometres from Katanning. I remember thinking ‘why’ do people want to live so far away from town, there was no shops, you could not hear any cars driving, no chatter of people talking, just complete quietness.
This was the start of my journey to finding out more about my rich Aboriginal culture.
My parents had been invited by the Baptist Church Union to relocate to Marribank Mission to work with Aboriginal families who had their children removed from them, which is known today as the ‘Stolen Generation’. The ‘Stolen Generation’ would see thousands of children removed from their biological families due to government legislation that permitted children to be removed for no reason.
Mum was employed as a Native Welfare officer and dad was employed as a farm worker. Mum’s role was to support parents to reconnect with their children who had been removed and to provide suitable accommodation for them to reside in at Marribank Mission whilst they worked to rebuild their relationships.
It was during this time that I first met Uncle Ronnie Williams who is the father of Matilda’s goalkeeper Lydia Williams. Uncle Ronnie was such a huge presence and was loved by everyone who knew him and was the Pastor during the time he lived at Marribank. I remember everyone would look forward to seeing Uncle Ronnie return from one of his long journeys from doing an outreach ministry that I later learnt had taken him all over Australia, including parts of the world. Uncle Ronnie was an evangelist who loved to share the Word of God with all people, from all walks of life. I remember Uncle Ronnie returning from one of his outreach ministry’s with Aunty Dianne who was an American lady who had also been doing ministry work with the Aboriginal people. Uncle Ronnie and Aunty Dianne would marry and have a daughter Lydia who was born in Katanning. The family would then later relocate to Kalgoorlie a town in the Goldfileds of Western Australia.
"I have used art to reconnect me back to my Aboriginal culture and heritage and have developed many different genres during my adult life."
Marribank was where my interest and curiosity for art had commenced and it was during this time that my second eldest sister Tina was chosen to go and live in Indonesia for 3 months to be taught the technique of batiking. She and another lady, lived with the Balinese people and learnt about their culture and way of life.
When my sister returned from living oversea in Indonesia she became an Art instructor and taught the women the new batiking technique she had been taught by the Balinese people. Due to the textile trade being so successful in the 80’s and 90’s, my mother became manager of an art business called ‘Doojakin Designs’ and this was the start of my journey into the art world. During the eras of 1980 and 1990, the textile painting and design provided fantastic opportunity for Aboriginal women who then became artist and sold their works.
Looking back, Marribank had played an important and integral role in breaking into the mainstream art industry of Western Australia and this success continues today. There is also a beautiful art collection, connected to Marribank done by the Aboriginal child artists. The amazing works of the Aboriginal children artist are currently housed at the Curtain University in Perth, Western Australia and as its own global story.
It was from this beginning, that as a young adult I began to explore art for myself.
The saying, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is recognition of the artist ability and talent to create beautiful artworks.
I have looked at artwork that have evoked a stirring of such deep emotions, one’s of deep sadness and one’s of beautiful landscapes of our country Australia. Art is such a great and powerful way of connecting with people and places and is such an informal yet powerful platform for storytelling.
I have used art to reconnect me back to my Aboriginal culture and heritage and have developed many different genres during my adult life.
Art is a powerful median that brings life to a blank canvas where the artist can paint, draw and create pictures that can speak a thousand words.