Remarkable paintings from Stolen Generations children as young as six will be placed on display in the heart of Perth after securing a new funding deal from Lotterywest.
The 168-year-old Perth Boy’s School building below BHP’s CBD office tower will become a window to the famed Carrolup/Marribank children’s paintings currently on display at the John Curtin Gallery.
State Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti and WA Governor Kim Beasley on Thursday announced a new three-year, $1.76m Lotterywest fund for the Carrolup Centre for Truth Telling at Curtin University.
Carrolup Centre manager Kathleen Toomath, whose mother was taken to Carrolup aged four, said the prominent location would provide an important educational tool for visitors to better understand Australia’s dark history.
“It is a sad indictment on Australia that there are many people who have gone through the education system and still have no understanding of the reality of what colonial settlement did,” she said.
“We own pain now, we own trauma, we own a foul legacy of colonial settlement housed within our minds and bodies through the impact of driving us away from our country.
“These things are profoundly damaging to anyone, and the fact we can see that through the lens of a child, see how those children built resilience and continued connection to their country through Western landscape designs, is invaluable.”
Of 122 paintings repatriated, just 17 artists have been identified, and a key part of Carrolup Centre’s research is to put names to more works and connect families to their ancestors.
The portal itself on St George’s Terrace will house a selection of the paintings once the building has appropriate climate control and casings.
It is hoped the high-profile location will guide more people to the new ground floor gallery planned at Curtin’s Bentley campus for the wider collection.
“Where it is located is quite a prestigious part of town in regards to building, mining and top-end activities,” Ms Toomath said.
“They are potentially the voices that have the power to change.”
Mr Buti said the new portal and gallery would become important spaces for reconciliation.
“Genuine reconciliation requires the WA community to recognise and respect Aboriginal people, acknowledge past injustices and ongoing inequalities, and commit to working towards a more equitable future,” he said.
The Carrolup artworks were painted by children taken to the mission near Katanning and were repatriated to Australia in 2013 after spending four decades hidden overseas.
Since repatriation from New York’s Colgate University, Curtin and Carrolup survivors and descendants have been working towards finding a permanent home for the art.
Mr Beazley, the founding patron of the Carrolup Centre, described a permanent home for the collection as an “essential aid for the truth telling needed for healing”.
“We are learning the richness and resilience of the culture we damaged so severely as we moved onto this land 200 years ago,” Mr Beazley said.
“Nothing better illustrates that resilience than the artwork of the stolen children of Carrolup.”
Carrolup Elders Reference Group chairman Tony Hansen said the Lotterywest funding would contribute to transgenerational healing.
Mr Hansen was taken from his family in 1970 and placed in Marribank at the age of three, spending the next 15 years of his life there.
“Schoolchildren from Years 5 to 12 will also be able to gain a greater understanding and awareness of our shared history, First Nations’ culture and heritage, and the impacts of 200 years of settlement colonisation within WA,” he said.
“This program will offer excursion opportunities and supplementary educational collateral for use within classrooms.
“These steps will form an important part of WA’s reconciliation journey, recognising the cultural and historical significance of these precious artworks.”