Sunday, 30 December 2007

'a tremor in the force'

In the words of Freda Lane, "there is a big change this year, who will look after that blue mountain now, that sacred place?"

Fred Unjima Forbes died quietly and comfortably at Wannarn Aged Care on the 23rd December 2007. He had been unwell and the first week of December evactuated to Kalgoorlie by the flying doctor service. After his hospital stay, Mr. Forbes was sent to Wannard Aged care to recouperate. Kantjupayi Benson was headed that way for respite care and it was thought Mr. Forbes would be well cared for with a good friend and family for company. So it was, for the last few days of his life. He had been happy, eating well and chatting with Kantjuapyi Benson. Life simply slipped away from him.

This world will not be the same again.

I now grieve for the old man who came to me when I was so sad at the loss of Reggie Jackson, earlier this year. Mr. Forbes who must have been experiencing the loneliness that comes as you watch your contemporaries die; knowing he was one of the last of a generation of Wati who held the structure and substance of his ancient homeland. Mr. Forbes came and wept with me, shared my grief, comforted me. How gentle and great was this man, yet most of the world never knew him and never had the priveledge of his company. I should be grieveing for those who never knew him, their loss is greater than mine.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Media Releases


27 November 2007

Western Desert Mob Wins Double at Community Services Awards

Western Desert Mob has made a significant impression on the 2007 Community Services Industry Awards in Western Australia, winning two of the three awards for which they were nominated.

The group were recipients of the award ' Category Two: Working Creatively to Make a Difference' (large group or organisation) and 'Category Nine: Outstanding Commitment by an Individual.'

Western Desert Mob Project Coordinator Tim Acker, who was recipient of the Category Nine Award, said both awards were a fantastic recognition of the hard work and positive outcomes being achieved by Western Desert Mob.

"These awards recognise the collaboration of a team of strong and passionate people and we are very appreciative of the support," Mr Acker said.

Western Desert Mob was also a finalist in the Category Three: Strengthening Rural and Remote Communities and were the only organisation to win two awards at the event.

One of 134 worthy nominees in the 2007 awards, Western Desert Mob was represented alongside many well-recognised community groups and organisations.

Western Desert Mob would like to thank the Department of Child Protection and Lotterywest who sponsored the awards.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Yet another busy fortnight

The last week in September saw the managers from Western Desert Mob affiliate art centres at Yulara for a day and a half of intense meetings. We are working on a publication, New art from Ngaanyatjarra Lands, needed to talk about our next joint exhibition. The Perth Show that launched the Western Desert Mob was a great success and we are now looking to Melbourne for our next show.

We needed to discuss a Patron for the WDM and some ambassadors to carry our banner. We are feeling very positive and each of the centres, in their own way, is doing well. We were very pleased to have artists from Waburton Art Project join us at our meeting.

I needed to raise the issue of Mantamaru Artists, I am hoping that they will be strong participants with Papulankutja Artists and that we can include them in the MOB, in particular for the exhibition next year.

It was a jam packed time at Yulara and we needed to get a lot through the agenda. The first week in October we would be meeting with the regions artists at Kulka for our governance workshops and we needed to be clear about matters to discuss with our artists and to get instructions on proceeding with the book amongst other things.

I had a little car trouble and also had to pick up the flooring for the Tjilpi Painting Room from a freight office at Yulara. Still, car fixed and freight on board I headed back to Blackstone via Curtain Springs. I wanted to go down the Mulga Park Road to check up on some of the Blackstone Mob who were visiting Amata and I wanted to say hello to a few old friends that I had not, had the chance to talk to at Blackstone during the Donegan funeral.

An Uneventful trip home, a few days to catch up on some work and then back on the road to Kulka. I was most grateful that my artists were in tune for the governance training and ready to head out. I was a little concerned that I would have to round them up :-)! I also needed to make sure that Freda Lane was on board as she is an executive member for Maruku (the punu man) and they had indicated that they would like the opportunity of having so many members together to hold a special meeting.

Kulka was buzzing, artists from Amata, Nyapari, Warkurna, Mututjulu, Blackstone and Jameson attending. Peter Shepherd our governance trainer and Kathy Tozer our interpreter. These session were just great and the artists are so impressive with their participation and direction.

I was particularly pleased that on day three we moved into the mysterious realm of "the market" .... who buys the work and how do we find them? How do we match the right person to the right work? This can be quite a mystery to the artists who also have a problem understanding why some work is valuable and some is not. Their own value lies in the tjukurpa, the strength and value as they see it is the story, the law and the link to custodianship of these vital and important stories of culture. The artists have a great deal of trouble understanding the vagaries of what makes a painting desirable to the market. Quite often their is considerable offence by an artist who is custodian of important law and who is prepared to share it with you in their painting.

The Maruku (punu man) meeting was solid going and put a bit of a dampener on things. It seems that they have been served with a "case to answer" thingy from the Ab Corp Mob. Most of the items to answer seem pretty pithy and I for one am wondering what it is all about. certainly the timing seems linked to the intervention in the northern territory. No doubt there a problems of one sort or another with most business, little things that are not perfect. The art centres all endeavour to do their best and comply with regulations. Sometimes this is not easy. This kind of nit-picking does not help and was very frightening for the executive committee. Maruku service a vast area and we are all very reliant on their services. For us a great organization to deal with.

As Jameson has shown a level in commitment and come to our training session at Kulka I have arranged to go over next week with Jodie and we will spend the day doing some painting workshops. I will leave canvas and paint with those that indicated their preparedness to work with Papulankutja Artists and we will see how we go. I will try to get an agreement from them of collecting a group or body of work before I send any out, that we can check the work out and look at a likely market place for them. At the moment I have no idea. It is exciting to find this group of people so enthusiastic. I have asked the computer man to sort my software so that I can keep these new guys with their own identity. Their certificates will go out as Mantamaru Artists.

I am still in breach, have got a lot done, I think, to fix it up, so should be sorted by the end of the week. I do have a whole week at home in the community, that heavens for that!

I have sent a little selection of paper works down to Melbourne to get some advice about packaging for product that is above the level of the miniatures that are most successfull. The paper artists are developeing beautifully and some of their work is moving up the quality scale.

I have been out of the community for most of the last two weeks, I need now to catch up on correspondence, in particular, the following:-

The Association of Central Australian Aboriginal Art & Craft Centres

Peak Organisation Lobbying Project

Project Brief

The Commonwealth Intervention in NT communities presents a number of significant challenges, new opportunities and threats to Indigenous Art Centres.

Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts have begun a process of coordinated action to identify how Art Centres might be affected and to initiate discussion and action to inform and influence Government and public opinion.

There is also an important opportunity to influence party policy in the lead up to the federal election.

As peak organisations in the Aboriginal art industry Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts have an important mandate to advocate for Art Centres in a national context.

Desart hosted a national forum on 24 August that laid the ground for this project. The forum established the following priority tasks:
• Develop an industry position concerning the Intervention
• Develop policy concerning a revised program to replace CDEP following its demise from September 2007
• Coordinate a media campaign promoting the value of Art Centres and policies designed to support them
• Establish a working group to promote discussion, develop policy and coordinate action.
A working group was established including ANKAAA staff, Desart staff, Flick Wright (Ku Arts), Dianna Isgar (Papulankutja Artists), Alan Murn (Julalikari Arts), Liz Tregenza (Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre), Judy Lovell and Nicole Schimionek (Keringke), Andrew West and Abbie Cerchi (Independent Art Centre mentors). It is understood that this is an open group and may accept other members. The working group will require endorsement by Executive committee’s.

The Project
A project called the Peak Organisation Lobbying Project (POLP) will be formally established. It will be a joint project undertaken by Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts and resourced jointly by the three organisations.

There are two primary objectives in this project:
1. Develop new positions and policies in consultation with stakeholders
Policies will need to address changes to CDEP, the Commonwealth Intervention and the Recommendations of the recent Senate Inquiry.
2. Lobby key individuals in government and enlist the support of influential champions to ensure that lobbying is effective

Desart, ANKAAA and Ku Arts will seek endorsement of the project by their individual Executive Committee and distribute information about the project to their memberships.

The project will engage a consultant to deliver identified consultant tasks as outline in the Consultant/ Lobbyist Terms of Reference.

Project administration
Desart will provide project administration on behalf of the three peak organisations which are the primary stakeholders in the project.

Decisions about the conduct of the project will be made through joint consultation with the peak organisations and in consultation with the working group (below)

As the project administrator Desart will receive and administer funds and manage the contract of the consultant. (see Consultant Terms of Reference)

The working group
The working group established on 24 August is an informal group of Art Centre representatives. It was established to share ideas and identify key tasks as outlined in background information. (above)

It is important to establish that membership of the working group is confined to members of Art Centres, relevant peak organisation staff and others who might be nominated by Art Centres where individuals have a clear mandate for operations in Art Centres.

The working group will guide the conduct of the project by the consultant who will be required to undertake both formal and informal consultation with the working group.

Delivery and protocols
The consultant will develop policy and coordinate lobbying activity on behalf of the peak organisations and their memberships. It is intended that the consultant will be the primary contact for receiving and disseminating information in this project.

It is not intended that the consultant will over ride the promotion and advocacy roles of the individual peak organisations or individual Art Centres where they feel it is important to act independently.

Any project material created by the consultant under the letterhead of the peak organisations will require the approval of peak organisations before distribution.

Considering the urgency of this work it is vital that the consultant begin work as soon as possible with completion in the week before the federal election likely in November.

Desart will produce a written report and a financial report on the project for the benefit of stakeholders and for inclusion in organisation annual reports.

There is a great deal going on .......

Irrunytju - thinking out-loud - where has this place gone? the website remains!

Just up the road 65 ks toward the SA border,
lies Wingellina, the home to Irrunytju Artists. A wonderful group of people, funny, gifted, strong in culture; family to us at Blackstone.

Back in 2005 I can remember talking to the then Irrunytju Art Manager and bragging a little about how well we were doing at Blackstone. She stunned me by telling me that Irrunytju had traded nearly $500,000.00 y.t.d. at that time. I can not quite remember when we spoke but I think it was toward the end of the calendar year. Knowing that the artists group operated on a 75% to artists and 25% to art centre basis, I appreciated that meant in the order of $150,000.00 to the community. This money would assist to run the art centre, maintain the building and services such as power, phone, internet and so on. Not to mention the great expense of taking artists to exhibitions and meetings as well as bringing specialists in to do art workshops, particularly for the new and emerging artists. This also meant that the artists had a good income for family and that should flow on to benefit the community members in many ways.

Things have changed at Wingellina. There is no longer a community owned art centre. It is not quite clear what the artists recieve now. It is stated that payments are now on a basis of 60% to artists 40% to gallery owner. I am not a participant so I do not have any records to substantiate this, I can only assume it to be true. I do know that some payments are made in kind, in Toyota, not sure how one substantiates the value of any Toyota supplied to an artist. I do wonder what that means to the cash situation for families who need money to spend in the store for food, clothing ect.

I am also curious about the advertisements I have noticed lately, placed by Agathon Gallery, for charity auctions or sales for Irrunytju community. I note that since the take over of Irrunytju Artists, the community has not recieved and compensation for rent, power, phone, internet. If gossip serves me correctly I also understand that the community has seen fit to remove the services of power, phone and internet from the new manager/operator of the group. I gather the artists still paint in the same building. The funds that the artists group used to generate for the community and provision of facilities are clearly gone. It is very costly to provide services such as power to remote communities. One would expect that any business that is making money from a community would feel the obligation to assist in funding that community.

I am hoping the intent of Agathon Gallery is to use funds from their charity auctions to reimburse the community for the loss of funds experienced since its activities commenced at Wingellina. Assuming they have traded something in line with the previous manager of the "community owned and based" artists group, we are talking something in the order of $250,000.00 plus per year. Perhaps they will also consider the developement of opportunities for new and emerging artists who it seems are currently a little out of the picture.

We at Blackstone do not trade anything like the money talked of from Wingellina but I know that our artists are strong to support their art centre and that they are all fully aware that the 35% they pay to the centre from their painting funds, supports the developement of business and offers a future to their children with opportunity and training.

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.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Western Desert Mob Exhibition. Here is the image from the exhibiion promotion and invitation. It is a work by Mr. Lewis from Warakurna.

If you would like to check out the show, please use the following web address.....

cheers, Dianna

A day off in Adelaide. I am not sure when I had my last day off. I have been traveling. First to Perth to the Western Desert Mob opening and then down to Adelaide for Womad and The Fringe Festival.

The Western Desert Mob Launch was a great event and our collective exhibition looked stunning. Most of my Blackstone Mob were caught up with other events like the Perth Festival or law and culture. I traveled with two Ladies from Warakurna. I stayed a night with my nephew in Warakurna and met with the Patjarr mob, we traveled together to The Rock to fly to Perth. While in Perth I took the opportunity to pack up the Museum display and ship it off to Adelaide. Our Accommodation in Perth was a little daunting, security swipe cards to get in and out and travel in the lift. This worried the ladies, they felt trapped, I can not say that I liked it either, felt like we were in prison. We did find a very friendly restaurant and with the patjarr mob we spent a bit of time there. Shopping is always the most important activity outside of the trip purpose, so locating any op shops was a priority.

I am very happy with the WDM promotion, we are looking to expand across the border and will soon approach the SA and NT governments so that we can share our PR activity with our friends and family from the Pit lands and the mob from the Rock.

I traveled back from Perth on my own. Mike from Patjarr purchased a second hand troupie down there and the Warakurna Ladies stayed on with the rest of the Ng Lands mob for the Perth Festival Activities.

A good flight to the Rock, a quick shop for some supplies not available at Blackstone, the troupie and I headed down the "middle road" for home. I phoned Gordon the DCA and told him which way I was coming. I thought if I was not home between 8 and 9 pm, they should come looking. I did this because the middle road is not always well populated unlike the Docker River Road which has many travellers. The middle road saves about 130 ks. It is not really quicker as the road is not such a good one as the Docker river Road but it is very pretty and saving 130ks is good for the headset, I was very tired.

I was making good headway and thinking I would make it home by 7.30 pm, time to watch Foyles War on ABC TV. Great! I stopped under a lovely big Desert Oak for a drink and to stretch my legs. I never turn the engine off, I figure if it is going, leave it that way. When I got back in the car to head on down the road, the car stalled, it would not start again. It was 3.45 pm and I resigned myself to the wait for Gordon. I estimated he would find me about 1.30 the next morning, allowing that he would not get alarmed until 9.00 pm or so. I settled down for the long haul.

They actually got to me at 5.30 the next morning. It was great to see them and I was so sorry that Gordon and Toby had needed to spend the night driving, looking for me. The Middle Road is a little difficult to find from the Wingellina End. They were exhausted as was I, Gordon push started the troupie using his vehicle, Toby drove back and 3 hours later we were home.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

This is the media release that WDM sent out for Australia Day. I thought it may be of interest to those who have not followed the developement of the Western Desert Mob. cheers, Dianna

24 January 2007


26 January 2007

Aboriginal artists unite to stand strong on Australia Day

As a defiant and bold step toward maintaining strong, sustainable, Aboriginal-owned enterprises, an alliance of Indigenous artists and art centres from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia today announced the formation of the Western Desert Mob.

The Western Desert Mob is a powerful coalition of Aboriginal art centres, painters, woodcarvers and weavers from the region - united to ensure the wealth of talent and economic returns are retained in the community.

While considerable contention and debate continues in the art world concerning authenticity, ownership and the impact of art dealers in the remote communities, the Western Desert Mob has been formed to take action to safe guard the ethos of building strong community, family and culture.

The communities and art centres represented in the Western Desert Mob include renowned and well-established artists from Warakurna, Papulankutja, Kayili, Maruku and Tjanpi.

According to Project Coordinator Tim Acker, Western Desert Mob focuses on celebrating artists across the region and is anticipated to develop into one of the most significant Aboriginal art groups in Australia.

“There is significant contention in the industry at present, we want to rise above this and show the strength and positive impact the art centres are having in this region. The art centres, as part of the Western Desert Mob are one of the most positive examples of Aboriginal owned and managed art enterprises in Australia,” Tim said.

The Western Desert Mob aims to strengthen the connections and continuity between artists across this desert region and support for the artists from each centre is crucial to the future of the Western Desert Mob.

Warakurna Art Centre Manager, Edwina Circuitt, along with others in the region is constantly inspired by the strong artistic culture of the Western Desert Mob Artists.

“This group of like-minded artists, demonstrate the uncompromising approach to living in, and maintaining cultural links to, country, ensuring culture, creativity and stories are carried on to the future generations. This can only be done if the artists live in their community to pass on their wealth of talent,” Edwina said.

“We need to celebrate the exceptional artworks being produced from the region by artists living and painting in-country - sharing stories of country, culture and family,” Edwina said.

According to the Western Desert Mob, authentic art is centred on the artist’s physical and spiritual connection to country.

“Living and working or creating in the land of their birth is vital for an artist’s connection to country. This must remain intact and uncompromised because passing on these important stories to young people is a critical means of keeping culture strong and vital and is a crucial role of the art centres,” Edwina said.

“In some cases, if there was no art centre in the community, there would be no community,” Edwina said.

There is a significant difference between privately owned art businesses and community owned and managed art centres. Western Desert Mob members are Aboriginal owned and governed art businesses, with transparent operations and where 65% of the art proceeds return directly to the artist and the remainder reinvested into the art centre business.

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Saturday, 17 February 2007

I was going to continue the car stories, I have many and at the moment I am knee deep in car problems. The mechanic who has been missing for some time, has surfaced and it may be that some of these will be sorted next week. I have just read yesterdays entry and have decided enough of yurltus. The picture I have put up is the latest finished Mr. Forbes. In truth the hours are not waisted, one can get it in perspective, you can see the time is very well spent in deed.

I just have no idea how I am going to get, what is to be done, done. I will endeavour to catch up on the accounts today and then devote my time to the Esub tomorrow. Tim Acker will be up late Sunday night and we will be doing some filming of artists for a couple of days. I will get Tim to have a quick look over my esub and now I have the last 6 months figures I will use that as a basis for the budget. I need this out of the way as I head down to Perth for the Western Desert Launch on Thursday. will need to pack up the Museum display and ship that to Adelaide and be back at Blackstone on Monday to get ready for the Adelaide Trip. Hopefully the mechanic will still want to go down for the Adelaide 500 and I will not have to do the driving.

Toby will keep the paint and canvas up in the art centre while I am away. I think it will be quiet for most of the time in any case as there will be a few away with me and a few away in Perth for the Perth Festival. There is also "Business" on the lands and many will be involved in that. I just hope I can get the painting moment up when I get back so we continue to gather good works for the Randell Lane Show in Perth in June.

With Erin back, we hope to start work on a major spinifex paper mache sculpture. An idea we have had for a while.

On Thursday I was devastated to find that the builders had incorrectly put two house foundations on the art centre land allocated for the new paper making building ... such a shit and I am not sure that we will come up with any area half as suitable elsewhere in the community. Not practical out here to have the builder dig all the concrete and plumbing up however. throwing a tantrum is about the only satisfaction I can get. Gordon the CDA and I are working on an alternative. the paperwork and government notifications are going to be a pain in the arse.

Bloomington Indiana Public Radio on the Internet, fantastic night (over there) of jazz for the moment. Just the stuff I need drive the accounting process.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Photo of Yurltu by Thisbe Purich.

Thursday, money day. Not much to hand out today, the list is on the door, only two names on it. I never post the serious money names in any case as the pressure on them for hand outs would be too great. The list on the door is an attempt to limited the number of requests for money so I can try to continue working. The preparation of canvas, paint, phone calls packing and shipping is a constant. I can be up to my eyeballs in canvas and paint with the phone ringing and still have up to 20 people calling my name and wanting immediate attention. I have described this as like spending the day tumbling inside a cement mixer, it is the best description I can come up with.

11.00 am and Mr. Forbes comes in. I have a canvas prepared for him and he sets about his work. His work is constantly interrupted by his asking for information about his yurltu, Toyota. I have impounded in my yard this yurltu, waiting the mechanic. One of Mr. forbes' grandsons has done a good job of buggering up something in the workings and it needs fixing. Mr. Forbes has decided to sell the vehicle, his daughter is interested in buying it. I wont let it go until I know it is roadworthy. Happy that Mr. Forbes has at last decided to rid himself of the cursed yurltu I make plans for its repair and supply to his daughter. Mr. Forbes spends 7 hours with me in my office in Thursday, we then go to my back yard to check that the yurltu is still there. Again we talk of the mechanic and the likely day of his coming. I have been able to do nothing but attend to Mr. Forbes and talk of the car. finally I drive him to Ruby, one of his daughters. It is After 7.00 pm and I have done bugger all, all day. I do get a call from Simon, the mechanic and he is coming early next week, well thank god for that!

Friday, surely Mr. Forbes will be tired after the huge effort yesterday.

Jimmy is in early and enthused about a new big canvas. I set him up with one to take home and a fresh box of paints. This should be a good one for the Perth Exhibition in June. I have a small but growing, good collection of works corralled in the office waiting this event.

Elaine needs a quiet chat, we talk about her need for a yurltu. We talk about how desperate she is for a yurltu, how the desire for a yurltu keeps her awake at night, she is worrying for her own yurltu. Elaine has had money to buy a yurltu a few times this year, each time she has chosen to do something kind for her family instead. This time we have agreed, I will save her paintings instead of her money and when I have enough paintings I will sell them and get her a yurltu. this way she will not have money to give away as she has done during the past year.

11.00 am, in comes Mr. Forbes. He wants a new canvas. As thrilling as it is to have him working at all, and to have him working in my office, I want to sit down and cry, I just need some time to catch up on the workload and another 7 hours with Mr. Forbes and his concerns for his car is not going to achieve that end. Mr. Forbes is on fire, he has a vision, he will sell his old yurltu, paint a whole lot of paintings and then buy a bus. A bus that can take all his family for trips. Minyma, Wati and Tjitji! Mr. Forbes is very excited about this prospect and Dianna is wondering where the hell she is going to find a bus that is economically possible and that will have the endurance capacity to see Mr. Forbes and his family multitudes happy for a few months at least.

The ESub looms.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Friday 9th February. We say goodbye to Reggie Jackson. I asked Katherine, his daughter if I could put this picture up. This is a man who I will miss and miss and miss. A true bush man, a man of great fun, a pleasure and privilege to have known.

At his funeral service they talked of his lovely wife Pantjiti who died last year and of his second wife Joyce McLean, now widowed. They talked of his seven children, his sense of fun, the seriousness of his participation in Law and Culture. They also made mention of his commitment to the Christian Faith. This took me by surprise but then I remembered his participation in the Denis Forbes memorial service last year. I remember the shock of seeing him clutching the bible and saying prayers.

Reggie always used to tell me that he was from Jameson, lived at Wannarn and worked at Blackstone. He loved his puppies. He was very much his own man, a striking individual, not a conformist. I have heard him called "somewhat of a loose canon" .... what ever he was it was great to know him.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Sunday, a morning spent with American Public Radio, just love sunday mornings. I have come down with some flue .... I guess tired from last week and in close contact with a variety of likely bacteria, I have managed to catch something. Hopefully it will run its course quickly. I am too busy to be sick.

Last Thursday morning. The day started with artists meetings, some individual groups wanted to meet with Peter, Amata and Warakurna in particular. I wanted my mob to meet but it was too hard to get them together. We were all a little on edge, thinking of the afternoon meeting with Desart. Most of us thought that Wingellina would resign its artists from Desart at the scheduled meeting between John Oster and the Wingellina Governing Committee.

Mid morning we got a call from John Oster informing us that he was delayed at Wingellina. The Chairman was at Blackstone in the sorry camp and the Governing Committee meeting could not go ahead until he was there. Someone was on their way to Collect Mr. Foster, the chairman.

John Ioannou came to collect Mr. Foster.

John Oster arrived at Blackstone quicker than we had anticipated considering the delayed meeting. We spoke to the artists groups and arranged to meet around 4.00 pm after the shop shut.

Everyone was anxious to find out what was going on and we met a little earlier than 4.00 pm. John Ioannou arrived by charter flight with Winston Mitchell.

We gathered at the 50cent piece and John Oster convened the meeting. He advised us that Wingellina Council has resigned Irrunytju artists from Desart and that they had confirmed the appointment of John Ioannou as Manager of the artists group. He advised us that the meeting at Wingellina had been a respectful one on all sides. That Irrunytju Artists Group would no longer be represented by Desart, they would go their own way. There was considerable sadness with the artists group at this news.

John Ioannou asked to speak to the group and Mr. Ivan Shepherd the chairman of Desart agreed to have Mr. Ioannou address the meeting.

John Ioannou assured the meeting that he intended to run the Irrunytju Artists Group with honesty and integrity. He said he was an honest man and not happy about the rumours he heard about himself on the lands. He also advised the group that he had undertaken to restrict his activities to Wingellina, that the Governing Council had requested he not go to other communities to gather artists. He said however, that any artist that wanted to work with him and that came to Wingellina, would be welcome. There was some discussion between the art managers and John Ioannou. A number of artists indicated they were not happy with the arrangement and that the art centre should be independent from the Governing Council, the council should not be making decisions for the artists with little or no consultation.

John Oster asked John Ioannou and the Art Centre Managers to leave the meeting so that the artists could have an unencumbered discussion. We did so and no doubt there will be reporting by desart from this meeting in due course.

It was Edwina and I that wrote to Desart and requested a review of the employment and management process at Wingellina and the artists group. John Oster wanted statements from Irrunytju Artists direct and Nyakul Dawson (now sadly deceased), an important artists and elder and Bell Davidson an artists, elder and registered Ngaanyatjarra interpreter came to the Patjarr Artists Group meeting in September last year, to talk to John Oster. He met privately with the two Irrunytju artists. John Oster then discussed the matter with the Desart Executive who agreed to the formal enquiry and the appointment of Mr. Bell to undertake that enquiry.

It is clear from Mr. Foster that the Wingellina Executive are very happy with the appointment of John Ioannou and I can see that there could be a variety of reasons for that. Not the least being that it will take a big pressure of the work of the Exec. as they have handed the day to day running of the group to John Ioannou. There has been a number of art managers appoint in recent years and this no doubt has been a burden to the Wingellina Executive. Of course had the Artists Group been separately incorporated and the appointment of the art manager been in the hands of the an artists group executive with the assistance of Desart or Indigenous Economic Developement, some of this burden would not have existed. still nothing is that simple and ever easy out here in remote communities.

Our concern is now for the many artists who appear to be disenfranchised by the Wingellina Executive decision. The number of artists who feel they were not consulted and who are not in the top echelon or high money bracket or are too old, frail or lack confidence to make alternative arrangements. After all Wingellina is their home. Community based and indigenous owned art centres are more that just centres to produce saleable product. They act as centres of learning, support for culture, assist in social activity and the promotion of good mental and physical health.

The general feeling from the Thursday meeting is one of great sadness. Hopefully we will be able to maintain a cordial and friendly relationship with Irrunytju and its management.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

where exactly do I start........

Monday, the Wigellina funeral, Mr. Dawson, Mr. Woods and Mr. Roberts ...... a huge and dreadfully sad event, family, friends and dignetaries. Mr. Dawson in particular attracted whitefellas who wanted to show respect for this wonderful and important old man. This was a very somber and respectful funeral with the odd mix of christian and traditional aboriginal sentiment.

I did speak to the art manager at Irrunytju while I was in Wingellina, he indicated he was not interested in the artists governance sessions or the Desart Review meeting. Not surprising I guess.

Tuesday, at last we held out AGM or should I say our two AGMs, one after the other. Nothing like a sorry camp to get the mob together. We elected our new office bearers and I live (perhaps falsely) in the hope that with Jimmy Donegan on the Desart Executive and now on the Papulankutja Artists executive, we may have some better engagement in management from the artists group.

All morning the groups of artists and managers arrived at Blackstone for the governance and professional development meetings. Maruku from Muti had arrived earlier and Peter took the opportunity of spending some alone time with that mob. No doubt the sorry camp for Mr. Jackson assisted with the numbers of artists who came, still it was wonderful to have such a diverse and interested group. Even without the managers from Warburton and Patjarr we have good representation from them as well as Mutitjulu, Amata, Kulka, Nyapari, Warakurna and of course Blackstone. Amanda from Nyapari went with Edwina from Warakurna and collected artists from Wingellina (Irrunytju) to participate as well. We were all thinking of the Desart meeting which would be held on Thursday. Amata and warakurna took the opportunity of meetings with Peter without the big group and Kathy from Maruku gave tremendous assistance with the interpreting.

Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday mornings were filled with art business discussions, many of the artists had never been to such meetings before and it was good to see the the regulars talking up and helping the newcomers as needed. We had over 70 artists participating in the sessions.

Tim Acker from Aboriginal Economic Development came on the monday and he, Edwina and myslef finalized some of the arrangements for the Western Desert Mob launch and timing for the filming with the PR mob for TV.

Peter our Governance man brought his sidekick Iain for the experience of our training sessions and Iain with Brian from Nyapari was a great help with the BBQ lunches for the mob. Thank god for that as it was exreemly hot and I was not looking forward to the task myself.

bugger!!!!!! have just lost all the reporting on the Desart meeting. Will refocus, the energy is gone for now ... will continue this a bit later.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Saturday morning, Alan Saunders on the internet radio. Alan could talk about bubble plastic for all I care, I just love listening to him.

Went to Warburton yesterday. The culture centre is hositng an exhibition from Papulankutja Artists in August 2007. This will be a history of Blackstone shown thought its art, crafts and through its artists. Speaking to Albie,(Warburton Arts Project) Damien (general boss cocky) and Preston (chairman Warburton) I realized how unformed my concept is and how much thinking there is to be done. When I found I would be meeting with Damien and Preston as well as Albie, I was a little concerned about being ambushed. I think however that Damien in particular, was able to focus my thoughts and I have come back to Blackstone with a clearer vision and better topics to discuss with the artists. Albie and I had talked of art centres and their place in the sustainablility of community. Damien put the view that sustainability does not simply mean financial sustainablilty. There must also be cultural sustainablily, a purpose for the community to exist.

Last year I travelled with three of my senior female artists. They spent time explaining to me that Blackstone (Papulankutja) was like the axle holding the wheel. The dreamings and creation stories surrounded blackstone, blackstone was like the axle, securing the wheel of stories, they lived at blackstone to look after the creation stories, to give continuity to life and culture.

Damien felt that I should somehow weave that idea into our exhibition and the sustainablility of the community. There is to be a beautiful catelogue produced with the exhibtion, this will be a lovely record for Papulankutja Artists and we want to get it right.

While at Warburton, I also spoke to Sue Clarke about the May Festival. The first week of May is always our Blackstone Festival, our Happy Festival. This year the Music Festival has decided to move to Blackstone and combine or run alongside our Festival. We have agreed to meet in Blackstone on the 27th March to fine tune arrangements. The music festival will include a "Name" band, Battle of the Bands competition for local musicians and two days of Inma. The Blalckstone festival will kick off on the 1st May with art and craft workshops, a beauty salon and Desart Ng Regional Artists meeting, the weekend giving way to the sporting carnival, which will now run alongside the music festival.

This weekend I need to finalize the coding for the last quarter's financials, I am way behind with this and dare not leave it another day. I need to get working on the ESub funding submission for 2007/8, due on the 21st February. From now to the 21s February I have two funerals, the artists group governance and professional developement meetings, the Desart meeting with artists to discuss the report on Irruntyju, a visit by the PR company for filming of art centre and artists for the Western Desert Launch, the trip to Perth for the Launch will start on the 21st February. I need the last quarter financial reports to assist with setting the budget that I will submitt on the ESub.

I am fortunate to have Tania from Desart on loan this week. In my absence, she held the centre together yesterday. I note that she downloaded my esub stuff and is setting about recording the small cultural collection we have at Pap. Art.

Monday, 29 January 2007


On Thursday the 18th January, as usual, I put the Artists Mail Bag on the Ngaanyatjarra Air Plane. This plane travels from Blackstone through to Kalgoorlie and then on Friday back to Alice Springs. the Mail Bag gets delivered to the Post Office on the following Monday. The Artists Mail bag should have been in the post office for sorting and mail distribution on Monday 22nd January.

No mail from that bag has been delivered. My assumption is that the mail bag has gone astray.

The bag is signed for by the pilot on the Ngaanyatjarra Air Plane, I have always assumed that it would then be signed out of the plane to the courier who takes it to the Post Office. It seems that the post office have a record of receiving 9Kilos of mail from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands on Monday 22nd January. No record of how many mail bags or who those mail bags belonged to.

Ngaanyatjarra Air are reticent in providing details of exactly what trail there might be on the mail bag .... I just can not believe this!!!!! this is the Royal Mail. I thought the service was meant to be secure and that adequate tracking would have been a given. I have simply acted in trust and faith that the mail would be secure. I am pretty pissed off.

This morning the EFTPOS machine died, I find the mail is missing and the multitudes from the sorry camp all need something.

No all bad thought, Mr. Forbes started a new work. It is pretty wild.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Saturday afternoon, Jazz track on the Internet radio .... I am finding it difficult to motivate myself. Just not getting the things I need to, done.

It is very hot outside and I have kept the new plants watered however.

Tomorrow I will need to spend the day in the art centre, I am miles behind with various tasks and the sorry camp mob will be coming to sort some of the funeral requirements out.

Such a strange mix of cultures these funerals become. The family want to purchase a white coffin, no dirt to be thrown on it, but a huge bag of potpourri to be purchased for the grave site. This is difficult for me to understand. Still grief is very personal and if this eases the pain then so be it.

There has been a little mileage from our press release. The Austrailian had an article.

They have managed to identify Mr. Dawson, so, subject to paperwork, the funeral at Wingellina should be able to go ahead sometime soon. Still very difficult to accept that old man's death let alone imagine his body being so degrated that he is unrecognizable. No DNA records, no dental records .... this is not the way of things out here.

Lord knows how this will affect out Professional developement meetings and the Desart Regional Meeting. This is a most important meeting because of the discussions and investigation into the management processes of Irrunytju Governing Council.

With such sorry and pain from so many unexpected deaths, it is a big ask to expect the mob to focus on something as foreign to them as whitefella management issues. We would not push on with this if it were no so important. Very difficult for the mob to see the importance however.

I hope that the extreem heat will motivate the families to push on with the multitude of funerals, not only for our whitefella reasons but it is quite hard on the oldies and the children this sorry camp business. I am deaply concerned in particular for a few of the oldies.

I need to speak to the auditor on Monday, hopefully I can get the last of the information required from our accountant and he can finalize the audit. I am in depsperate need of the release of funds as well as compliance with ICC, prior to the ESub funding submissions, which close on the 17th February.

I will have a better idea of the submission when I finalize the 2nd quarter paperwork and see the reports generated.

Now that Ng Council look like they will come up with our training money for the Spinifex Paper I can see an end to some of the difficulties in sight. This has been a very diffucult 6 months.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

What a day!

The year is shaping up to be a busy one. The press release went out today for the launch of Western Desert Mob, an initiative of Ngaanyatjarra Lands Art Centres. The opening exhibition has been a rush, we wanted to take advantage of the Buzz with the Perth Festival.

This is such a positive initiative and we have been fortunate to be bank rolled for the start by the WA Government. Yet there are groups on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands that can not see the plus with this activity, they seem threatened by it. Frustrations abound!!!!

Tomorrow is the McLean Family funeral at Mantamaru .... so I will cruise the community early, looking for likely oldies who want to attend and then head over...... these weeks have been sad ones.

After the McLean funeral the sorry camp will move to Blackstone, just in time for Australia Day.

Today Mr. Forbes painted a wonderful work and I will be able to get it down to Perth for the Western Desert Mob Opening. It is the story of the country where his daughter Ruby was born. I am really thrilled to have it for the Perth Festival. Mr. Forbes is our Senior and most important artist ... what a treat to have him sitting and working in my office.

Mr. Jackson's son-in-law, Richard, came to see me today. Richard is the Chairman of Ngaanyatjarra Governing Council. He has agreed to come with me to Perth for the Western Desert Mob launch. This is a great relief, I really want him to see the grandeur of the exhibition and meet the important people who are coming to share the event with us. It is being opened by the Deputy Premier. We live so remote and our day to day lives are so removed from the big smoke that it is difficult for community members to understand the significance and importance of the art that is generated here.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

On the edge of the Gibson Desert, it is Sunday morning. To avoid the heat, I have been out early to water my co-workers' garden and plant a few hedging plants in my yard.

I am now in another world. The Internet is a wonderful thing, I have coffee in the cup and Garrison Keillor on the Internet radio. Sounds of A Prairie Home Companion in St Louise fill my Donga while I get the humdrum weekly household tasks out of the way.

Blackstone is very quiet today as the mob are off in Sorry Camps at Wingellina and Jameson.

Soon the Sorry Camp will move here as there was more dreadful news, our own lovely old man, Mr. Jackson died last Thursday night. His daughter and son in law are driving up from Perth and when they arrive this community will move into sorry mode. How can a man of such beauty and life be dead.

I have been trying to get a history project on the go, funding is very difficult to come by. I revved up a few people last week, pointing out that our oldies a dying and their stories are dying with them. I have booked Thisbe to come for the month of April, I will need to get the money from somewhere. Thisbe has a great report with this mob and speaks the language. We will start recording the stories of those few who are still with us.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

January 6th, very hard to leave home in Adelaide and head back to the desert.
Tuesday 9th January in the art centre, the usual rush of artists wanting to know where I have been and did I bring any money back with me.

I need to take my co-worker to The Rock to fly out for her leave, I check in with the office to let them know we are leaving the community for a couple of days. There is a fax advising that two men are missing somewhere between Kalgoorlie and Tjuntjuntjarra. The office worker asks if that can be Mr. Dawson from Wingellina, yes I say, that is him, there should be no worry, he is a wonderful old bushman, he knows what he is doing.

An uneventful trip to Uluru, we meet the plane OK, I send some paintings off with bus-freight and drop in on Maruku with some art and to talk a little business.

I decided to come back by "The Middle Road" so I ring my Community Adviser and let him know my route, we agree that if I am not back by 8.00 pm he will come looking for me.

There is quite a bit of water on the last 30ks or so of the middle road and I am cutting it fine to be home on time. Happy I hit the Wingellina to Blackstone road, there are some of my mob broken down. I stop, they say the will be OK, need water and some of the group want a lift back. I hand over some of my water and pick up a few passengers.

My thoughts have been on Mr. Dawson, they tell me he has been found. I am greatly relieved. Tired, I sleep well that night.

Saturday afternoon, Jimmy comes to my donga looking for diesel. I am angry at the interruption at home on the weekend, about to give him a mouth full when he says he needs to get to Wingellina, "sorry camp", that old man he says.

Not Mr. Dawson, he is a good old bush man, I say. Jimmy simply says, too hot, they find him too late.

Mr Dawson and his nephew are both dead, found somewhere along the dog fence at the top of the Nullabor, 350 ks or so from Kalgoorlie. The loss is not measurable, the sorry too great.