A good news story

This story, a combined version of the three short films, invites the audience to listen to Elders, artists and staff from three Aboriginal community controlled art centres as they share the vital role they play in keeping their Elders strong and connected. Elders are the backbone of these centres and play a critical role in maintaining intergenerational connection.

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Video Transcript

Art Centres Supporting our Elders: A Good News Story

Voiceover: There are about 90 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled art centres across Australia. Art centres are the hub of community life, they support artists, and the Elders are the foundation of the art centre. Art centres bring generations together, for everyone to learn from each other by sharing stories of culture, Country and kin, and keeping them alive for the future. Art centres are all different but they all do these things and this is a celebration of three of them.

Art Centres Keep Our Elders Connected: A Good News Story [Title]

Lisa Multa, Ikuntji Artists: [in Pintubi-Luritja] I paint the Kungka Yunti sand dune story, the dunes run through to Murintji and Tjurngkupa. This is the sand dune Country I’m painting. My grandfather’s Country.

Roseranna Larry, Ikuntji Artists: Art centre, they come here for, sit down to do their tjukurrpa, their Country dreaming. Mostly old ladies they come here, they do things to hold this Country’s songs, their Country’s songs, share the songs for the community.

Eunice Napanangka Jack, Ikuntji Artists: [in Luritja] My Dreaming, the one that I paint, is the Hare Wallaby Songline. It was running away and later was speared by an old man. I was the one speared because it is my Dreaming.

Roseranna Larry, Ikuntji Artist: I’m happy too, you know. It’s making me think back when I used to listen to my father’s aunties singing that’s why I’m really interested in with these old ladies in Haasts Bluff. It touches me you know, in Aboriginal songs. It’s our law, that’s why I am coming to the art centre. I like to sit around with the old ladies, Alice, Eunice, because they give me a smile, happy inside, and proud you know.

Tjanpi Desert Weavers singing: [in Pitjantjatjara] Raffia shimmers, raffia shimmers, grass shimmers, raffia shimmers, raffia shimmers, grass shimmers.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Tjanpi Desert weavers is a social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council. One of the beauties of Tjanpi is that it is actually a vehicle for allowing women the opportunity to go out into Country, to collect grass and to remain in Country and on community. Often we load up a Tjanpi troop carrier with lots of lovely ladies and we go out to harvest grass that's the core of the work that's produced, but it often means that there's opportunities for the women to go hunting for food or collecting bush medicines.

Margaret Smith, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: The bush is the best medicine, you know. Go and camp out, you feel so changed next time you know. That’s why, you know all them Tjanpi when they go out, they want to go out bush because it’s so lovely to be roaming the Country. I was looking at the old ladies doing Tjanpi work, just by looking at it I start doing it. Then I fell in love with it, so I kept doing it. All settle down very well, you know, ‘cause I was sort of grumpy and upset sometimes, but now I settle down like, it sort of brought peace to my life you know. Peace and harmony and changed my lifestyle around. 

Tjanpi Desert Weavers: [in Ngaanyatjarra] Young ones grow up and get taught by grandmothers.

Dorcas Bennett, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: [in Ngaanyatjarra] They will learn about our culture and be knowledgeable. I’ve made a skinny camel - I’m just learning.

Polly Jackson, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: [in Ngaanyatjarra] I didn’t know how to do Tjanpi and I have learnt from the old people who have passed away. I have learnt and I do Tjanpi.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Older women are the superstars of Tjanpi. They're the ones that hold the cultural knowledge and Tjanpi work is often informed by that cultural knowledge that they are the keepers of, and so they're very valued members of the Tjanpi family, as they are in community as well.

Annette Lomada, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: It’s good you know to come here and to be with the old people, we get stories too from the old people, we learn something from them old people. Like me I’m a bit young, I learn something from Sonia and Daisy. It’s important right, not only for us, but the younger ones coming behind. I mean it’s good for everybody you know to come in and, young to old to be together here.

Lynley Nargoodah, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: I never, never saw this place as an art centre, I saw it as a library for Indigenous people. You walk in, you have fables, you have true stories, you have crime stories, you have beginning stories, love stories, romantic stories and the old people, you know, they’re the knowledge keepers and without art centres, a whole lot of stories will be lost.

Wyatt: Yes.

Art Centres Keep Our Elders Strong: A Good News Story [Title]

Sonia Kurarra singing in Walmajarri

Japeth Rangi, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: The older people like to come to Mangkaja, to do their painting, their art and their Country and to show us young people how they used to live in the desert and teaching us how to paint, telling us the stories, old people used to tell us.

Belinda Cook, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: The art centre is a support hub for everybody. People come in here to paint and to create their artwork and to record their stories. But we're a lot more than that in the sense that everyone comes in here first to have their breakfast, to talk about what's happened overnight, to talk about the care and support that they need, firstly, to be able to create artwork to be able to enjoy the space and use the studio. So our studio is a safe space. It's a space where people can come and relax and be social. Our artists are our board, are our membership. They govern what we do. They govern how we operate. So it's always driven by the community, by the artists themselves.

Jennifer Dickens, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency:  Everybody loves coming to Mangkaja when they come here they say ‘I feel real peace in this building’. It makes them real happy and they enjoy it. Painting and they come here and just sit down and sometimes I just sit with them and they usually tell me stories them old people. How they came out of the desert and how they lived by the river.     

Lynley Nargoodah, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: They see it as a safe place where they can come here and just relax, you know they don't have to paint. They can just have a feed and lay down. When they come here, they know what they're doing, so it's their routine. They'll have breakfast and then they'll sit down and want to finish off a painting and tell stories.

Maree Meredith, Flinders University: The art centre is a good place, it's a place where people come to be happy in the midst of a lot of chaos and crisis. The art centre is a place where people feel safe. It's a place where people can have meals. It's a place where people can come to have a shower. It’s a place where people can do their washing, and at the same time, it's a place that makes money for people and their families. So in that regard, it's a very special model. It has the cultural, the social, as well as the economic that come together in a holistic way.

Nisa Richy, Ikuntji Artists: The art centre’s a community hub. It's a place for everyone and you get men and women, all different age groups like some days, you'll have like three or four generations painting together in a room. I really love working here because every day is different. It's unpredictable, you meet all these different people, building relationships every day over a long time. It's really special. Part of my job is assisting the artists with day to day stuff, like calling the clinic to get medication, calling home care to come pick someone up or bring them in, even helping people with simple tasks. Even some artists ask my help to bring them to the toilet, that kind of stuff. Lots of different ways we support people.

Chrischona Schmidt, Ikuntji Artists: There was an expectation that the art centre looks after old people, but in what way was never really made clear. That starts from the expectation to pick people up on a daily basis and drop them off back home, as well as if we go on bush trips, organising special carers and paying for them and having disabled portable toilets with us. And you know, there's all these kinds of things that are taken for granted that we should be doing.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: When you form really personal relationships in the course of the work that we do, you get to understand and know people very well, and we can often be quite highly attuned to changes that people might be experiencing in their well-being and health. And so we can often refer to other services issues that we see with artists in their decline in their cognitive function or their mobility.

Nisa Richy, Ikuntji Artists: We all know each other in community, aged care, clinic workers, everyone, we all kind of work together and communicate about the older artists, what they need. Everyone knows where they are.

Lynley Nargoodah, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: It's a good thing because the old people, I think in all old people homes tend to get forgotten and for them to come here and paint, it's like mentally they're going home when they paint. Yeah, physically, they are not able to, but mentally they're already home and painting Country.

Belinda Cook, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: We were selected by the curator Clothilde Bullen to include a group of women from Mangkaja to continue their practice with perspex. It showcases to them how important the work that they're doing is. I think sometimes family just think, ‘oh Mum paints, and that's really nice’. But getting to see it on that scale and the impact it has and the response it gets from public really lifts everyone's pride and sense of what they're doing and why the art centre exists.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Art centres are really strong places for older people to be respected and valued, and they contribute fully to the economy and families, and they also contribute a wealth of information that informs the artwork.

Art Centres Keep Our Elders Strong & Connected: Continue the Good News Story [Title]

Tjanpi Desert Weavers singing: [in Ngaanyatjarra] Raffia shimmers, raffia shimmers, grass shimmers, raffia shimmers, raffia shimmers, grass shimmers.

Margaret Smith, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: See this basket is made out of grass; that grass Tjanpi. We call it Tjanpi. It's not a new thing, but the colours are new and the raffias and the needle but long time they did have that.

Julie Anderson, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: [in Pitjantjatjara] Yuwa wipia.

Margaret Smith, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Yuwa wipia or the hair.

Nisa Richy, Ikuntji Artists: One really important part of the art centre is facilitating bush trips. Getting artists back on Country and that’s something the art centre puts a lot of work into, working with people where they want to go. I’ve been lucky enough to go with some artists on some small bush trips and I think it’s like really being in their comfort zone. I think it’s their Country, it’s where they have their connection, and I think you can't have that anywhere else.

Margaret Smith, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: We haven't got much funding for Tjanpi corner, you know. Not just Tjanpi corner but everywhere. Funding is the main issue.

Roslyn Malay, University of Western Australia: It's so important to keep our older people strong, healthy, active, being part of something that they play a very important role in. You could see the difference it makes when they come to Mangkaja, you know, like it's something that, it's part of them. You know, they come to share their stories, tell their history, share their culture, language to the younger generations, which, you know, I think it's brilliant. Where else could you get something like this in a cultural way.

Chrischona Schmidt, Ikuntji Artists: I hope that government will see that an art centre is not just an economic space creating jobs in communities, but it's very much considered a space of community space that supports all generations and that it's finally getting an acknowledgment for all the ‘extra’ work that we're doing. That is not considered extra by the community, but it's considered outside of our funding agreements.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: We just can't do this all on our own, so it's really important that we have a number of really flourishing partnerships, and I think there's great potential to work together with organisations out there for the outcomes of artists in community, particularly with some of the aged care facilities, for example, where we're supporting women that have moved into those places and are often removed from community. I think that is a very encouraging sign of the way that the investment can be quite small, but can be very meaningful as well in supporting women out on Country.

Belinda Cook, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: It was great to hear the feedback from those other agencies and see that they also recognise what we contribute and what the art centre contributes and the critical role it plays and how important our relationships are. The conversations around what we do for our artists, all the roles we play in this space is something we've talked about for a long time and that that wasn't recognised and isn't part of our funding or part of the support that we receive from government. But it's definitely something that everybody recognises within our community. So we were trying to work out ways that we could start to tell that story.

Michelle Young, Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Art centres are really strong places for older people to be respected and valued, and they contribute fully to the economy and families, and they also contribute a wealth of information that informs the artwork. Within the art centre it's a very intergenerational space, and so when these women are creating work, they're actually sharing that with their wider community. So they're really important repositories for cultural information. And I think that's the real strength of art centres.

Lynley Nargoodah, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency: They should really put our old people on a pedestal. Every organisation everywhere should put them on a pedestal and rise them up because they've done a lot for not just their own people, but everyone else as well.

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