Sunday, 30 September 2007

Spinifex Paper Brochure

Jodie our Craft project officer has been doing some work on the brochure and expanding some of the products. This project is going from strength to strenght.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

moving on

This week has been jam packed. I finally signed the contract on the new building. This has been a nightmare undertaking but it now looks like it will actually happen.

I had visitors from ICC on Thursday, we are talking about a reciprocal agreement that could install air conditioning in the new building. Working in a tin shed in 45 degree heat is not something I look forward to so lets hope that we can come to an agreement. The Art centre, in particular the Paper making business works with the school and we attempt to assist in the matter of truancy. We are processing an agreement with the headmaster, some school competency outcomes can be achieved at the centre. It was agreed about three years ago that our centre would be an extension of the school campus.

The funding mob would want us to display or prove development in our art centre governance and they may include the assistance of Papulankutja Artists to Mantamaru and its art centre development as an acceptable outcome for this funding purpose.

The WA lotteries commission are publishing a little story about our paper making exploits and the adventure of building. There is a good news story coming out of Blackstone, lets hope the commonwealth government can see it.

I am "in Breach" of our current funding agreement. Keeping the paper work up is always a problem but with this one, due to a variety of circumstances, not entirely of my own making, I have to go back and re-do the budget allocations from December quarter last year and then March quarter this year.

The travelling and busy activities at Blackstone combined with the move to the Town Hall, the fact that we have no working phone and Internet in this art centre space, make life a bit more difficult than usual. Phone and internet need to be accessed in a separate building, quiet and consistent time in a place where all the necessary information is located is difficult to come by. I hope to knock it off this weekend. I really need to because of the timing, the need for funding, which is being withheld from this recalcitrant art centre member and because the month of October is giant with travelling and activity. This weekend I have at Blackstone, hopefully the time will be my own. I had hoped that last weekend would afford me some time but it was not to be.

Next week I head up to Yulara for the Western Desert Mob meeting and there is a big and important agenda. I would have like to be in Alice for Desart Meeting and discussion on the Desart Strategic Plan but I just can not fit it in.

The funeral went well and immediate family have headed over Amata way to stay with extended family. I will drive back that way from Yulara and check on them all, see that they are OK. I did not have time to catch up with Hector and Naomi at the sorry camp, it was not really a time for chit chat in any case but I will make the time when I travel through Amata this time.

The Mechanic from Warakurna has finaly come and done some work on Mr. Forbes car. Of course it is not finnished but I am assued it will be this coming week. I certainly hope so. Mr. Forbes gets confused, he his harried by his family and I find him very distressed over that car. I will be so glad to give him the keys and tell him it is back on the road. That is of course until the next time. Still we should get a little while with happy car ownership.

I have a new little old red ute of my own now. Toby drove it up from Adelaide for me, it was found in the trading post. I have Toby up working on the old men's painting room. We will be well ready long before the new building is up. I hope to have the painting room operational some time in the next two weeks.

This will be a wonnderul working complex, located near the town hall, a new artists area and paper making place, with good office space and airy verandars. An enclosed yard that segways into the tjilpi painting room and some extensive storage areas. Can it be true, is this really happening ..... I think it is :-)!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Senior Men

yet another day....

Tonight our Senior Men's exhibition opens at Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Waterloo, NSW. We were booked to attend the opening but as often happens, sadness has visited Blackstone. Jimmy Donegan's son has died, his funeral is tomorrow.

There are visitors and extended family staying at a sorry camp set up behind Jimmy's house. I can not imagine the death of one of my children, my heart is heavy for Jimmy, very heavy indeed.

Yesterday I visited the grave of his wife, their son is to be buried along side his mother at the Blackstone Cemetary. I do not believe in the afterlife. It would have been comforting for me to tell my old friend Nuuniwa that her son was coming to join her; as it is, comfort must come in the fact of their lives and the memory of a gentle woman, who I was priviledge to know for too short a time. I did not know her son.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


Sunday, a good start, Prairie Home Companion on the Internet radio at 7.30am, turn on the abc TV at 9 for the insiders. I love the beginning of Sundays.

A good day to get some work done, catalogue some tourist level work to ship out on the Tuesday plane, try to sort some of the web site troubles and computer files from the big or should I say huge computer trouble that started over six months ago.

I am working quietly and one of the artists calls out to me from the front door. His wife is lying on the footpath outside my gate, she is distressed and asking for help.

We have two nurses but they are husband and wife and have taken their remote leave together. There are no nurses in the community. The advisor is on leave, the relieving advisor has spat the dummy and left the community. The store manager is holding the keys. To add to the confusion our project worker and office manager left in rather a hurry as well. The Store manager has quite a task on his hands and no real hand-over to assist him with procedure or current activities in the community.

I ring the store manager to ask if he has emergency numbers. I need to ring another clinic on the lands for assistance. He advises me that he has no such information at all. His instruction is to go to Jameson for help. I clearly have more information than him as I know that Jameson does not have anyone there at the moment.

My patient has lower tummy discomfort and when I find her she is quite weak and upset. I pull out the banana lounge, bring her to the shade near the house where I can access the phone to see what help I can get. Husband, wife, daughters, grand children and family dogs come to join us. I keep the cold water flowing. My artist is clearly dehydrated.

I do not have weekend clinic numbers as this is not normally my concern. I decide to call the Kalgoorlie hospital, apparently, they should have my artists records from previous visits, I think that they may be able to help me assess the nature of this problem and whether it is likely to get worse. Many hours later, difficulty with names and identity make it hard with the hospital, I ring my nephew and ask him if he has any numbers I might call, he gives me the Warakurna clinic after hours number and I talk to a nurse who advises me to call the flying doctor for advice.

5 attempts to get an effective number for the flying doctor and I get a wonderful on-duty GP who talks me through a quick check of my artist and who agrees to talk to the Warakurna nurse to see what we can sort out.

Finally the HACC coordinator for Ng Lands surfaces and talks to the nurse from Wingellina, who has been put in contact with me by the Flying doctor. Antibiotics are prescribed, my Artist now is rehydrated and much more comfortable, I take her and her family back to their camp.

It is now 7.00 pm and my day of quiet work has been totaly frustrated.

My lovely gentle artist seems ok and hopefully she will sleep well. If she is not on the improve tomorrow then it will be a trip to Wingellina, alternatively there is a visiting nurse coming in to the community on Tuesday.

Friday, 21 September 2007

another day another dollar

A rush trip to Jameson yesterday. There is a group of artists who want to set up an art centre of their own.

I have been asked to see if Papulankutja can assist in some way. The most difficult thing to start, is to explain how an art centre such as Papulankutja works. What many community members do not understand is that the art centre is funded by the artists. They tend to think of buckets of money that are handed out by the government and there is some anger about why Papulankutja would be getting that money and not them. It takes time to explain that the artists at Papulankutja own the art centre and that the artists of Paulankutja fund the art centre. We get very little funding of operational funds from the government. We do need the funds that we get and we are very pleased to put out our hands for those funds, but the bulk of the expenses of running the art centre are the funds provided by the artists themselves.

So the first step is to talk about the structure of the art centre and to bring home the idea that it "costs money to paint a painting" and "it costs money to sell a painting". We are in the middle of the western desert and finding a market is not always an easy thing to do.

Anyway it was a good meeting and after the group agreed to attend our next governance training session at Kulka and learn more about art centre business, I agreed to work out a way that Papulankutja can assist in the provision of materials, the montering of work and see if there is a market that can be found. Exciting times!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007


It is difficult to believe that is has been months since I put anything up in this Blog.

Life in a remote art centre goes by at a frantic pace. Many times I have had stories to tell, thought to pull up the blog, but life just gets in the way.

Now there are very serious matters afoot. The govenment, with possibly the best of intentions, it setting about bringing ruin to art centres in remote communities such as Blackstone and remote townships such as Ceduna or Cooberpedy.

I think it is moving withought due consideration. without the understanding of how diverse indigenous communities in Australia can be, how different the developement and needs of any one of these communities is.

In the West, we are not quite as urgently under the pump as those centres in the NT and in suburban and country South Australia. It is however, only a matter of time.

Our Respresentative body Desart, together with AANKAR and Ananguku are calling on member art centres to discuss the current crisis, look for the positives that can be offered to Government, come up with a solution that satisfies the governmental requirements and guarantees the capacity for art centres to continue their good work.

Wish us luck, we are going to need it!!

Art Centres Action Group


May we draw your attention to the potentially adverse effects of the removal of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) on the Australian Indigenous art industry. CDEP has been abolished in urban areas and is in the process of being removed in the Northern Territory. The Aboriginal arts industry is critically dependent for support from the CDEP scheme in a number of ways: CDEP organisations provide services and support, there are CDEP-paid workers in art centres, and CDEP provides income support for artists, the majority of whom cannot earn enough from their arts practice alone.

The Government’s stated policy objective is to support the NT intervention, ‘moving people into jobs, improving services and infrastructure, and providing longer term support to build better communities’ and ‘implement quarantining of Aboriginal incomes’. However in the case of art centres we submit the following:
• Artists are already employed, typically as self-employed individuals or as members of an enterprise in which the work of higher earning artists contributes to running costs of the whole.
• Moving to one of the alternatives offered Work For Dole or a STEPERS programme, is a move to unemployment and a retrograde step for artists and for artsworkers employed in supervisory positions. Work for the Dole will require these people to be engaged in activities like cleaning the communities rather than formal arts production and arts management.
• This will set back the planned progression towards a business model that many art centres have in place already.
• Reduction of artists’ base pay rate, and the move to WFD or STEPERS, will add to the power of carpetbaggers who are recognised as an existing threat to the industry.
• Reduction of incomes across the board will put more pressure on artists, many of whom are grandmothers, and many of whom are elderly, thereby
further reducing individual community capacity to contribute to the
Indigenous arts industry
• There is the potential to lose qualified arts centre managers who are unlikely to become WFD supervisors
• Some smaller art centres have already closed.

The internationally recognised Australian Indigenous arts movement drives an industry that returns an estimated $200 - $500 million to the Australian economy annually . The Indigenous arts industry generates income and contributes to the economy for artists and their families, galleries, dealers and other retailers. Artists themselves contribute to the wider economy through income tax and GST. The Indigenous arts industry contributes to related industries such as transport and distribution networks, motor vehicle sales, manufacturing and paint products, tourism (especially in remote Australia), the Australian export market, and local remote economies through the re-distribution of artists’ income.

The CDEP has been a critical component of the success of the industry, affecting a majority of Top End art centres, and many art centres in Central Australia, South Australia and Western Australia . However some art centres are now under threat because this component is being withdrawn without the capacity to properly plan the transition. In urban areas a number of art centres have closed.

Our submission
We request policy –makers to consider CDEP-funded Art centres in the context of the Indigenous arts industry and not in the context of an unsuccessful CDEP programme. We ask:

1. That the Government stay its decision to abolish CDEP in art centres around Australia. Such a decision is inconsistent with explicit recommendations contained in the Indigenous Art –Securing the Future 2007 (Report of the Senate Enquiry) that recommended the maintenance of CDEP. Further, it will have negative and long lasting impacts on Indigenous artists and the entire industry.

2. That the current situation requires urgent Ministerial intervention in particular communities affected by CDEP changes in the Northern Territory to ensure that the current confusion and disruption is addressed and artist and arts worker positions are maintained.

3. We call for a review and reconsideration of the round of CDEP closures in urban situations around Australia in 2007 to assess the impact on participants, organisations and communities and the feasibility of reinstatement.

4. That successful art centres developed through CDEP must be recognised and supported as a model for developing art enterprises and contributing to a significant national industry.

5. That the situation demands a methodical and consultative review of CDEP-funded art centres to identify and implement sound operational structures and resource needs for these entities as they move towards business models.

6. That the government and opposition honour all the recommendations of the June 2007 Senate Inquiry Indigenous Art – Securing the Future, including the employment of indigenous arts workers in art centres as essential jobs.

7. We submit that in any discussions of modifications to CDEP it is timely to consider a separate Arts enterprise support program, perhaps administered by DCITA, around Australia to cater for enterprise development in regional towns and in communities. Such a program could include a base pay rate for artists and artsworkers, capital and operational funding. We feel this would be in line with the Senate Inquiry Recommendation 11 – “The committee recommends that the Commonwealth pursue the conversion of CDEP funded positions in Art Centres into properly funded jobs, taking an approach similar to the 2007 – 08 Budget initiative in other portfolio areas; and that this initiative be independent of future NACIS program funding.
We submit that such a program would have these features:
a. Income and continued training for Aboriginal people employed in developing enterprises that have genuine community benefit
b. Inclusion of art production and other enterprises as essential activities on communities
c. An examination of tax thresholds to encourage Aboriginal people to remain in paid employment

8. That the Aboriginal arts sector and its representatives work cooperatively with all levels of government to create and implement sound policy that will strengthen and contribute to the sustainability of the highly successful and world renowned Indigenous art industry.

9. That government through its actions and policies demonstrates a commitment to recognising and respecting the unique and highly valued role that Indigenous artists play in Australia’s national cultural life.

For further information please contact:Dianna Isgar on 08 8956 7586 or email me on the gmail account attached to this blog.