Tjapangati, On the question of the government’s ‘lavish’ construction of …

Comment on Yuendumu writes new chapter on the beginnings of contemporary Western Desert art by Kieran Finnane.

Tjapangati, On the question of the government’s ‘lavish’ construction of the museum, the following is interesting. An article published in the 1972 edition of the Journal of the Royal Historical Society in Queensland sources its information, or perhaps reprints an article from Northern Territory Affairs, a periodical published by the Federal Government’s then Department of the Interior. A digital copy of the RHSQ article is available online.

The article reports the museum cost $14,000, of which $7000 came from the Aboriginal Trust Fund (a fund receiving mining royalties from operations on Aboriginal reserves, this being in the days prior to Land Rights). According to the article, “The remaining $7000 was raised by the Aboriginal people themselves.”

The article also reports an extension to the recreation hall in Yuendumu at a cost of $54,000, with $25,000 coming again from the ABTF, and “the remainder from the settlement’s Social Club”. In comparison, the cost of the museum appears quite modest.

Kieran Finnane Also Commented

Yuendumu writes new chapter on the beginnings of contemporary Western Desert art
Tjapangati, a few points:

• An artist wanting a monetary return on his or her work does not negate cultural reasons for doing that work, nor the work’s life in the culture independent of the artist’s intention.
• Your suggestion that there is no connection between the museum and the later painting movement ignores the visual evidence – the continuity in the iconography – and the historical evidence – some of the same artists going on to be involved in the painting of the school doors in 1984 and the founding of Warlukurlangu Artists in 1985,among them P. Japaljarri Stewart and P. Japaljarri Sims.
• I specifically make the point that recognition of what was happening at Yuendumu is not about ‘usurping’ the place of what happened at Papunya.
• The point about the insecurity of the murals at Papunya is suggested as a possibility. I should have sourced it anyway to Philip Jones. In his book Behind the Doors, he writes: “Without a secure and private space, the Pintubi artists had little alternative but to place their designs onto temporary and transient surfaces. Encouraged in this by Geoffrey Bardon, their art soon became both marketable and market-sensitive … The situation at Yuendumu offers a great contrast, for almost at the same time, the Warlpiri’s first efforts at mural painting were made securely and privately, on the internal walls of their own newly built museum.”


Recent Comments by Kieran Finnane

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I haven’t seen the display at the Maritime Museum but I can imagine why a dugout canoe would be part of such a display if it is presenting an overview of Australian maritime history, for Indigenous watercraft were Australia’s original boats and Indigenous people, the first Australian seafarers.

I see from the museum’s website that it has a substantial collection of Indigenous watercraft (46 objects), as part of its Australian Register of Historic Vessels, which strives to be “the definitive online registry of historic vessels in Australia”. Inclusion of Indigenous watercraft is thus essential.


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@ Kylie Johnston. With respect, this is not a ‘media conversation’ but a report from a Town Council meeting open to the public.
Perhaps you will want to take up your concerns with Cr Auricht and Mr Doyle, whose comments are accurately reported.
Kind regards, Kieran Finnane.


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@ Alex Nelson. Councillor Paterson is mistaken. I have checked the audio of the meeting: he was clearly nominated by Cr Cocking and Cr de Brenni seconded the nomination.


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@ John Bell: Dr Nelson’s message about equality is clearly expressed in his words that I have cited, about Australians all being “equal – irrespective of politics, race or religion”.
On reflection, his meaning when he said “they denied their Aboriginality to fight and die for the young nation”, is likely referring to those who enlisted either having found a way around their exclusion from the armed forces on the basis of their race, or having had their Aboriginal descent overlooked. “Denied their Aboriginality” seems to me an unfortunate choice of words to cover these circumstances.
Readers may be interested in further details on this topic in an article on the War Memorial’s site:
https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/indigenous-service/report-executive-summary


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Phil, They did indeed suffer consequence, as the article above and the series of reports from the trials make clear. For victimless acts of civil disobedience they were tried under harsh Cold War era legislation, facing maximum penalties of seven years imprisonment. This hung over them for a year.
They were found guilty and were sentenced, proportionately to the nature of the offence and their circumstances. Fines ranged between $5000 and $1250. Considerable penalties for people who live their lives in voluntary simplicity, without substantial income, and in service of those in need.


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