Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3884 understand our indigenous history to fully appreciate the journey that has taken art from the Dreamtime to the world stage. Our indigenous people of the Northern Territory have been artists for many thousands of years. It has been part of our life and culture through imagery, dance and song. These three elements, along with our languages, have provided the basis for our long-standing rich and resilient culture. In the old days, visual arts provided indigenous people with the means to record, represent and express stories and the journeys of ancestral beings through body painting and markings, ground paintings, bark paintings and rock art, together with decorations on artefacts and sacred objects. Whilst these traditional arts are maintained throughout the Territory today, the past 30 years have seen the development of a new art movement, one in which Aboriginal artists have been able to take their culture to the rest of the world in a form which has delighted art lovers and which has returned substantial economic, social and cultural benefits to Aboriginal communities. I am proud that my region, Central Australia, is the birthplace of the desert art movement, a movement that, as it has grown and flourished, has provided an art style that is recognisable all over the world; a movement that has given Australia part of its national visual identity. Since Geoffrey Barton recognised the extraordinary wealth of cultural knowledge held by the men of Papunya and brought their images to the market, the Central Australian Aboriginal art movement has gone from strength to strength. Our paintings are now treasured not only right across Australia, but in Europe, the United States and more recently China, South-East Asia and even in the Middle East. The growth of the popularity of Aboriginal art and its appreciation by non-Aboriginal people has served an important function of assisting to maintain traditional culture. This is very true in my region, Central Australia, where traditional culture is still strong and where much of the painting is underpinned by the story or tjukurrpa, the law and the song. The traditional iconography is still to be found in our paintings, from the animal tracks to the marks depicting waterholes, dreaming tracks and ancestral people. The original stories were fundamental to the survival of Aboriginal people in Central Australia, serving as location maps and acting as the means of transmission of moral and spiritual beliefs. Of course, nowadays, paintings for sale do not carry sacred or secret information, but artists often sing or tell the old stories as they are painting and, in this way, keep their culture both intact and alive. I have visited arts centres such as the Warlukurlangu artists in Yuendumu in my electorate where the senior artists, old men and women, steeped in the original culture, are singing and painting alongside their children and grandchildren, where the artists still dance on special occasions, and where bush trips to important sites and remote parts of the country are the highlight of the arts centre program. It is very important that we acknowledge the Aboriginal relationship to country and the traditional culture which is the core inspiration for the best of Aboriginal visual arts being produced today. Aboriginal artists have made the transition from traditional culture to contemporary art form without compromise, and for this we must respect them. Of course, with the development of the Aboriginal art that is made for the market and not for traditional purposes comes a shift to engagement with the mainstream commercial world and, in this shift, there has been and will continue to be major challenges. This is why today we are speaking about the federal governments Senate inquiry into Australias indigenous visual arts and crafts sector. The Northern Territory government has made a strong and comprehensive submission to the inquiry and the minister has already outlined a number of the issues contained in the submission. I endorse the ministers remarks on the importance of the industry and the need for its ongoing support. The minister has spoken on the important work being done by Aboriginal-owned arts centres in the Northern Territory. In my electorate, I am proud to say, is one of the leading arts centres in Australia: Warlukurlangu Artists at Yuendumu. Established in 1985, the arts centre has been the central cultural organisation in Yuendumu for more than 20 years. The arts centre has grown significantly in terms of sales and artist participation and is now one of the three largest arts centres in Central Australia. It is a shining example of a long-standing and successful Aboriginal-owned enterprise. Currently representing more than 300 artists, Warlukurlangu is managed by an executive committee made up of Aboriginal artists. For most of its history, Warlukurlangu has operated with a high level of community participation and engagement. The arts centre undertakes a range of projects that nurture social and cultural objectives and are highly valued by its member artists. These projects often generate income, but this is not their main focus. Market responses to the bright acrylic paintings on canvas produced at Warlukurlangu have been very positive, resulting in increased demand and higher prices. This has placed Warlukurlangu in a very strong commercial