Tarnanthi goes international with APY Lands exhibition in France

This article was originally published at the National Indigenous Times, 9 October 2020.

The Art Gallery of South Australia’s (AGSA) annual Tarnanthi festival will launch its first international showing with works by artists from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in remote South Australia.

Touring in France from October 16, Kulata Tjuta (Many Spears) isa major exhibition of new works by 34 artists showcasing paintings, photographs and an installation of spears in wood and cast bronze.

Presented in collaboration with the APY Art Centre Collective, the exhibition will occupy an entire floor of the Musée des Beaux Arts in Rennes, the capital region of Brittany.

Tarnanthi curator and proud Barkandji artist, Nici Cumpston, said Kulata Tjuta presents a unique opportunity for European audiences to experience the creative genius of Anangu culture.

“They’ll get to meet the artists through the portraits, they’ll get to read the words on the wall that relate directly to the painting that have been written in the first person,” said Cumpston.

“It gives people an opportunity to see and be introduced to the art of artists from South Australia from the APY Lands.”

“And just having that opportunity for people to become aware of who artists are from this region is definitely going to provide opportunities into the future.”

Each of the paintings are about celebrating Tjukurpa (art and culture) and make reference to cultural maintenance initiative, Kulata Tjuta Project, in which senior Anangu artists and leaders share skills and cultural knowledge with younger generations.

“The paintings are all about ancestral creation stories for each of the artists … Some paintings are referencing the Kulata Tjuta Project, which has been about cultural maintenance for the men in communities to engage with the younger men who work with them to learn the practice of spear-making,” said Cumpston.

“There are also paintings by women artists that are sharing important stories of connections to place and connections to each other. There are similar stories painted by different people, but each person brings their perspective to that story.”

Anangu artist Mick Wikilyiri said celebrating Tjukurpa keeps it “alive and strong and protected for future generations”.

“Each of these paintings created by artists across the APY Lands is a celebration of Tjukurpa,” said Wikilyiri.

Kulata Tjuta began as a small project involving five men in Amata and has grown to include over 100 Anangu men across the APY Lands.

The exhibition was co-curated with the 34 artists themselves. The artists overcame challenges presented by the pandemic and pulled together entirely original works over the course of a few months.

“Initially, we were going to take a different body of work over to the Musée de Beaux Arts in Rennes … [but] we weren’t able to travel to install the major installation of the Kulata Tjuta, which was over 600 of the hand carved spears,” said Cumpston.

“Because we couldn’t travel to do that, we went back to the artists and said, ‘Okay, what can we do?’ Everybody was really enthusiastic and really positive and rallied around it. Across the art centres, the artists managed to create this incredible body of work.”

Anwar Young, Dickie Marshall, Stanley Young, Brenden Raymond, some of the leaders of the Kulata Tjuta Project in Amata, APY Lands, South Australia. Photo by Rohan Thomson, courtesy of the artists and APY Art Centre Collective.

As part of the exhibition, Cumpston and the artists involved have put together a 200-page catalogue featuring the artworks and artist biographies which will be available for purchase on the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) website in the near future.

The exhibition will open the same day as the annual Tarnanthi celebrations in Adelaide at AGSA, titled Open Hands.

Held from October 16 until January 31, Open Hands highlights how the creativity of First Nations women artists forms a vital cultural link in sharing knowledge across generations.

The launch will be streamed here: https://fb.me/e/cMLv776ki.

Djirribal woman examines problems with sport intervention programs

This article was originally published at the National Indigenous Times, 2 October 2020.

Proud Djirribal woman and University of Queensland (UQ) PhD student, Lee Sheppard, is examining whether Sports for Development programs are benefiting Indigenous communities or are more focused on ‘ticking boxes’.

Sport for Development (SfD) programs are recognised globally as vehicles for achieving social development outcomes and providing opportunities for disengaged groups.

Many SfD programs have been established by non-government organisations (NGOs) like the Clontarf Foundation, which aims to impact the lives of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men through football, improving their education and employment prospects.

“Sport is claimed to have the unique capacity to draw in and influence hard-to-reach groups and individuals, including marginalised and traumatised youth populations,” said Sheppard.

“SfD programs are programs that NGOs have started to proliferate over the last ten years where they target … the most at-risk group in Australia, our young males, who are at-risk of disengaging or have disengaged from school.

“They use sport to attract them back to school and keep them coming.”

With a background in anthropology and experience working in the mining industry, Sheppard was invited by the UQ School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences to examine the nature of SfD programs.

While Sheppard said SfD programs benefit Indigenous communities overall, her fieldwork revealed the kids who need the program most are not being targeted.

“The programs inspire students who are highly resilient and are motivated to succeed,” she said.

“But how do they serve at-risk kids who have already dropped out of school and fallen through the cracks?”

Informed by conversational research methodologies of yarning and Dadirri (deep listening), Sheppard spent time with north Queensland communities to collect data and listen to perspectives on SfD programs.

“During fieldwork and the more I look into it; it shows programs target everybody the same. But those that are really hard to reach are the ones that are starting to disengage in school,” she said.

“The kids with low resilience, the ones that really need help, are sometimes put into the ‘too hard’ basket and they prefer to focus on those who are easier to work with.”

“Because a lot is going on in their lives and they’re not engaged in the program, they end up getting moved on from the program.”

Sheppard found that while the evidence for SfD programs remains inconclusive, many are funded by corporate mining companies like Rio Tinto, and through industry-NGO partnerships.

She explored in her research whether Indigenous communities’ interests are being best served or whether companies are more focused on ‘ticking boxes’.

“Agencies and bodies providing SfD programs have increased and produced the ‘social problems industry’ that concentrates on rehabilitation-oriented programmes designed and marketed to solving social problems,” she said.

Sheppard said these programs are entwined with paternalistic ideas that “treat our young people as problems” rather than focusing on the social factors causing these problems.

Set to complete her PhD on October 31, Sheppard hopes her research will inform how future SfD programs are implemented and run in Indigenous communities. She believes programs should be better adapted to individual needs.

“Rather than a focus on bolstering weaknesses, programs should consider individual strengths and refine their talents,” she said.

“SfD programs would work if the providers, governments and funders communicated with our mob in ways that promoted empowerment, decision-making and self-determination.

“Instead of progressing their own agendas and expecting us to ‘accept’ the intervention without question, they should work with our mob in culturally appropriate ways, listening to and taking on board each community’s needs and solutions for their youngsters.”

Mayi Harvests keeping culture strong through bush food products

This article was originally published on the National Indigenous Times, 25 September 2020.

Built on traditional ideas of how food and medicine are collected, Mayi Harvests is an Indigenous-owned and operated business providing wild harvested bush foods from Western Australia’s West Kimberley region.

Mayi Harvests was established in 2006 to supply fruits and seeds, including the Kakadu plum Gabiny. The name Mayi comes from the Djugun Yawuru language of the West Kimberley, meaning bush foods derived from parts of plants including seeds, fruit, nuts, honey and sap.

The business was founded by CEO and Director of Mamanyjun Tree Enterprises Pty Ltd, Aunty Pat Mamanyjun Torres, who specialises in West Kimberley native foods and maintaining ancient cultural practices.

With her mother and grandmother growing up with a vast knowledge around wild bush foods and being named after the bush fruit Mamanyjun herself, Aunty Pat said it was a “natural progression” to find herself in the bush food industry.

Mayi Harvests follows traditional methods of wild harvesting. This involves hand picking produce with the six seasons of the Kimberley in small batches to ensure a sustainable future for their community.

“We only collect certain amounts so that we’re not annihilating or wiping out a species. We work with the need … so that we’re not over collecting something from the wild, because the plants have got to be shared with the animals and the insects,” Aunty Pat said.

“You’ve got to make sure when you’re collecting that you’re also allowing the environment to stay healthy.”

Aunty Pat also described the harvesting process as a “family affair”, with her extended family and friends helping with hand picking the fruits to maintain ancient cultural practices.

“For us, the bush food is more than just a commodity. It’s something that reaches back into ancestral history,” she said.

“With it comes sacred rituals and songs and stories. It’s very much embedded in who we are as humans.”

With a Bachelor of Indigenous Languages and Linguistics, Aunty Pat is also passionate about the continuation of her family’s traditional Djugun and Jabirr-Jabirr languages.

She said using the traditional harvesting methods is also an important way to keep traditional language and culture alive.

“When you go out on Country and you collect, you’re teaching your family and the younger ones the names of all the bush fruit, you’re teaching them about the medicine, you’re teaching them how to use plants for shelter,” said Aunty Pat.

“It’s important for our wellbeing and cultural and language transmission. Harvesting is a great way of telling the ancient stories when you’re on the land—because all of the fruits have got a story.”

Australian native produce has been branded as a ‘superfood’ and is becoming increasingly popular with beauty companies and modern restaurants.

Aunty Pat said native bush food is vital for health and wellbeing, with one of Mayi Harvests’ main products—the Gabiny having the highest vitamin C content of any fruit.

“If you’re eating native ingredients, you’re getting natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in their natural form, instead of man-made [food],” she said.

Aunty Pat said her people traditionally ate the wild foods fresh or dry. But over the past few years, she has tested and developed her own recipes using the traditional bush foods to create delicious jams, chutneys, cookies and natural cordials.

When asked about her favourite recipe she has created, Aunty Pat laughed.

“How could I just choose one? They’re all my favourite!”

You can find Mayi Harvests products and recipes here.

Community program keeping Indigenous Victorians connected during lockdown

This article was originally published on the National Indigenous Times, 22 September 2020.

Proud Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul woman Nellie Binmaarus is keeping mob connected during Victoria’s lockdown through weekly food drops, health check-ins and socially distanced yarns.

Binmaarus is the team leader of CoHealth’s Billabong program, which usually provides weekly catch ups for local Indigenous Victorians in inner Melbourne to share community news, eat breakfast and receive free health checks.

Due to lockdown restrictions, the Billabong community have not gathered since March. Adapting to the times, Binmaarus decided to maintain community connection by visiting her clients’ homes every Tuesday.

“Home visits are about making sure I am still there for the community, making sure that I can communicate health information … and provide for them,” said Binmaarus.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables usually come down to Billabong with me. So, I thought I’ll just pack them up into cooler bags and deliver them instead,” said Binmaarus.

Binmaarus also keeps program participants connected by sharing news across the community.

“Some of the Aunties and Uncles are asking, ‘How’s this person doing, how’s that person doing?’ And I let them know I just saw them yesterday and it helps them feel more comfortable,” said Binmaarus.

Yorta Yorta woman Aunty Christine Charles has been part of the Billabong program for more than a decade. Ms Charles doesn’t use her phone often and said Tuesday visits from Binmaarus are her main source of news.

“Nellie is like my message stick. She tells me how everyone is doing. She brings groceries and face masks and tells me how to stay healthy.”

“Not everyone uses the internet, so it’s better to get information by word of mouth,” said Ms Charles.

Binmaarus said sitting down and having one-on-one yarns with Billabong participants is one of the most important parts of home visits.

“Some of my clients can’t read so when there are new restrictions, I make sure to call them up and let them know,” she said.

“Some of these people also don’t have family to drop in and literally just check on them.

“The most important thing is to sit there and listen to them to make them feel good. Everyone needs to be heard during hard times.”

Binmaarus also prints brochures containing up-to-date health information, including when and where to get tested for COVID-19 and which services to reach out to. She said her knowledge of the Billabong clients helps her tailor the information for each visit.

“Some of my clients have a range of medical conditions. So, by considering each person as an individual and providing specific services or writing down their appointments, we can help them get through this pandemic,” said Binmaarus.

Low COVID-19 rates in community

According to the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), there are currently five active cases of the virus among Indigenous Victorians, with 65 people having recovered.

CoHealth Chief Executive, Nicole Bartholomeusz, said these low numbers can be attributed to the work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and culturally specific health programs like Billabong.

“Community health organisations reach people who might otherwise not engage with mainstream health services,” said Bartholomeusz.

“The success of Billabong can be put down to years of relationship-building, the expertise of Aboriginal health workers like Nellie, and an ongoing focus on culturally safe practices.”

Binmaarus said she is proud of her Billabong clients who have stayed clear of the virus and hopes the recent low rates in Victoria means they will be able to gather by the end of the year.

“I would love to sit down and have Christmas with everyone. I really look forward to that,” she said.

Young Wiradjuri and Pacific Islander creative pays homage to ancestors

This article was originally published on the National Indigenous Times on 22 September 2020.

Proud Wiradjuri and Pacific Islander woman, Darby Ingram-Rauluni, has turned her creative outlet into a small business venture that celebrates her traditional language.

Her brand Hill Sixty started out as a blog of the same title. She began posting on the blog four years ago, using it as a space for creative self-expression and connection.

As her website’s readership and community grew, Ingram-Rauluni decided to funnel her creativity into making sustainable keepsakes from the heart.

“At first it was just family and friends that read and supported me, and it had always felt finite,” she said.

“As I started to navigate my first relationship, grief and general young adulthood, the sentiment toward what this meant to me grew and so did the community around it.”

Her latest creations include tote bags and affirmation card decks, which feature Wiradjuri language and serve as a reminder to honour yourself and live slow.

“I’m currently selling small calico tote bags, that feature the definition or translation of the Wiradjuri word Yindyamarra on them,” said Ingram-Rauluni.

“I chose Yindyamarra because I feel close to the pace it encourages and the importance it places on respect. I want to live my life with this approach of nurturing and honouring.”

“I think that message is threaded throughout the blog, Instagram and now products. To respect and honour, not only those around you but your being for all that it is.”

Ingram-Rauluni said the first drop of cards does not include Wiradjuri language, but her second deck, which is yet to be released, will be fully printed in Wiradjuri language.

“The [first] affirmation cards don’t feature any Wiradjuri language; however, I acknowledge my ancestors and the nuance of how I’ve been raised in the cards,” she said.

“This was a conscious decision, as the next product I’m working on is a set of cards that are completely in language with only a reference card for translations.

“I wanted the first few products that I sold to be true to the … Hill Sixty blog and the community that engages with it. A lot of my original blog posts are about navigating the relationship I have with myself and how hard that can be at times.”

Ingram-Raulini said the total essence of both her blog and brand celebrates her ancestors. She said including language on her creations is an “act of hope and defiance”.

“The entirety of the blog … to the very name Hill Sixty, is an homage to my people,” she said.

“My family are incredible storytellers, oral historians and sophisticated communicators.

“My maternal family are First Nations people. The Wiradjuri nation are river people, we take care of the Wambool (Macquarie), the Calare (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidgee Rivers, which all run through Country,” she said.

“My family has connections to the Murrumbidgee, in a small town sitting alongside it; the Carrolls and Ingrams along with over 40 or so other Koori families set up home (many buying their land back) at what came to be known as ‘The Sandhills’,” Ingram-Rauluni said.

“This is where my grandparents grew up … We were fringe dwellers, excluded from community, but we were safe together.”

Ingram-Rauluni said The Sandhills read as ‘Hill 60’ on the small town of Narrandera’s map.

“I named my blog this, as they taught me the importance of storytelling and authenticity.”

The young creative’s tote bags and affirmation cards are a reminder for the Hill Sixty community to be true to themselves and “unapologetically take up space”.

The first deck of affirmation cards will be available for purchase from September 18.

To keep up to date with announcements and make purchases, head to the Hill Sixty Instagram here.

Petition calls for Wollongong City Council to install CCTV to catch vandals at rainbow crossing

This audio current affairs piece was originally published for UOWTV.

A petition calling on council to install CCTV cameras near North Wollongong’s rainbow crossing has attracted over 1000 signatures. A local resident created the petition, which outlines that if surveillance were to be installed in the area, vandals who purposefully leave skid marks on the crossing will be identified. While the petition proves people want to protect this symbol of acceptance for the local queer community, the Deputy Lord Mayor explains there is more to consider about the logistics of installing cameras.

Illawarra drag queen starts #BuyATicket to support local queer artists

This article was originally published on UOWTV on 19 May 2020.

An Illawarra drag queen is behind a social initiative designed to support queer artists affected by the cancellation of upcoming performances under COVID-19 restrictions.

James Christie-Murray, who performs as Pablo and is the founder of Queer Space, started the #BuyATicket initiative to provide direct donations to local queer artists who have lost gigs.

“The initiative involves buying a virtual ticket to a show you would go to, like Queer AF or a local drag show, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to local artists who are out of work at the moment,” he said.

Audio: Christie-Murray and Larkham discuss how they have adapted to online and what they miss most about performing.

Christie-Murray said he turned to online methods, including live streaming games and hosting virtual trivia, to keep the queer community connected.

“It’s hitting us pretty hard but we’re doing all we can to keep the queer scene visible,” he said.

“I kind of just fell into streaming Animal Crossing during Covid-19. Not only does it allow me to connect with an audience, it also shows that drag is an art instead of just wearing a lot of makeup and wearing extravagant makeup.”

Adam Larkham, aka Roxee Horror, has also started a YouTube channel to boost connection.

“A big reason behind starting Word Vomit was that people we see on a weekly basis get to have a bit of community involvement. It’s also keeping my face out there, too,” he said.

Inaugural NORTH publication celebrates Warlpiri creatives

This article was originally published on the National Indigenous Times on 14 September 2020.

A new print publication showcasing the talent of local artists and storytellers of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerr Country has been launched by non-profit arts organisation, NORTH.

NORTH magazine is led by Warlpiri editor, Samara Fernandez, and is a collaborative project between NORTH and the communities of Yuendumu and Nyirripi.

The first issue, This is Warlukurlangu, includes over 130 pages that showcase Warlpiri voices, photographs, stories, art and fashion.

Fernandez said the magazine represents beauty and culture.

“My one true goal was to make sure I’m representing my family … and their community to their core,” she said.

“I know my community as a place of cultural abundance and saw, in this magazine, an opportunity to show you Yuendumu and what us Warlpiri people are truly like.”

“Especially in mainstream media, our community is depicted in a way they see fit without actually understanding the structure and the beauty within our community.”

Fernandez said the publication embodies the resilience of the Yuendumu community.

“It was really special to be able to do this publication because as Warlpiri people, we’ve been going through a lot at the moment … with the Justice for Walker project,” said Fernandez.

“I wrote a couple of pieces … about wellbeing linked to how we cope with adversity, and how we cope with difficult times in our lives to get the conversation going.”

Wellbeing. Photo supplied by NORTH.

Award-winning Warlpiri photographer, Liam Manjal Jampijinpa Alberts, is one of the featured artists in the magazine.

Alberts took out the Desart Photography Prize for 2020 with his piece, Local Warming.

The striking photo is included on a double spread in the NORTH publoication and tells a story of the impacts of global warming on Country.

“It used to be a very fertile and green place. The Elders told stories about how it used to be, and it just sounded completely the opposite of what it looks like now,” said Alberts.

Liam Manjal Jampijinpa Alberts’ Local Warming. Photo supplied by NORTH.

“Being published was a really good opportunity to share stories that I capture from my own perspective.”

Fernandez said the publication will give readers the opportunity to get to know the local artists that work with NORTH, as well as the wider Yuendumu community.

“It’s one thing to admire the art. But I think it’s really wonderful and important to actually be able to get to know the artists behind the artwork as well,” she said.

The publication officially launched at the start of September and will be on sale for a year, with new issues published annually.

This is Warlukurlangu can be purchased here.

WA Government extends eviction moratorium

This article was originally published on the National Indigenous Times on 11 September 2020.

Western Australia’s COVID-19 residential laws have been extended for another six months, barring rent increases and some eviction provisions until March 2021.

The McGowan Government’s moratorium was due to end this month but has been extended to “preserve stability and certainty in the rental market”.

WA Attorney-General and Minister for Commerce John Quigley said landlords maintain the right to terminate a lease if the tenant was not facing COVID-19 financial hardship.

“I want to stress, tenants who are not in COVID financial hardship must still pay their rent, otherwise they face the prospect of eviction,” Minister Quigley said.

Renters in WA can still have their leases terminated and be evicted if they are:

  • Causing serious damage to the property
  • Posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours
  • Not paying rent when they are not in financial hardship due to COVID-19
  • Refusing to make a rent payment
  • If they abandon the property.

The laws are said to support those in private and public housing, residential long-stay parks, as well as boarders and lodgers staying in their rental homes.

More support is being offered to landlords who will be able to receive guidance on what to do if a tenant fails to pay rent or breaches a lease through the new Consumer Protection Landlord Hotline.

Earlier in the week, South Australia and Victoria extended their eviction moratoriums until March 2021.

More action needed

While tenancy advocates welcome the extended on the eviction moratorium, they believe more action needs to be taken to address the systemic issue of homelessness in WA.

Megan Krakouer, Director of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Project, said the eviction moratorium will help Indigenous families in public housing.

“Western Australia evicts twice the rate and twice the total number of tenants from public housing that Victoria does,” Krakouer said.

“The extension protects the vulnerable and gets social services to actually support the doing-it-tough families in public housing.”

However, Krakouer said more should be done beyond the provisions in the residential laws.

“There are more than 9,000 homeless Western Australians, with one-third First Nations, but in Perth the quotient is even higher. With street-present homelessness in Perth, more than 40 per cent are my First Nations people,” Kakouer said.

“We need immediate emergency accommodation for all the homeless and for as long until they’re permanently housed, as well as the unmet need of 15,000 public homes to be built to end the waiting lists.”

In WA there are more than 14,000 applications for public housing.

Iain Shields from the Home Hub said since the pandemic, they have had a “huge increase” in the amount of people seeking safe and affordable housing.

“We’ve seen in particular huge increases in people who are fleeing from domestic violence and have also seen increases and a high demand in people experiencing mental illness and recovery,” said Shields.

He also stressed the need for more public housing.

“The real facts are that there’s no better opportunity for the State Government to build 15,000 new homes that ends homelessness.”

Legal advocate for First Nations people, Betsy Buchanan, said she hopes the government addresses “problematic” housing policies after the eviction moratorium lifts next year.

“The basic structural problem in WA is the housing policies. The hundreds of evictions that happen every year, with no consideration for the fact that households actually contain vulnerable children as well as vulnerable adults,” said Buchanan.

“Those houses are often extremely overcrowded. So, what happens is you’re not just evicting one family, you’re evicting a number of families and also the fact that houses often are refuges for people who might come out of prison.”

Alice Skye fronts BONDS period positivity campaign

This article was originally published on the National Indigenous Times on 7 September 2020.

Proud Wergaia and Wemba Wemba singer-songwriter Alice Skye is fronting a new campaign by BONDS that promotes period positivity and eliminates shame about having periods.

The BONDS Bloody Comfy Period Undies campaign features a curated album, Unplugged, with original music from a group of Australian musicians including Skye, Kira Puru and Montaigne, written while on their periods.

The Naarm-based (Melbourne) artist’s track Persistent Mood will be the second on the album and tells the tale of her experiences with carrying strong emotions.

Persistent Mood is about any kind of feeling you might have that appears and seems like you can never get rid of it, but you can, and you will eventually,” Skye said.

“How I’m doing physically really affects me mentally and vice versa. So, if I’m experiencing pain and can’t move, I then feel sad or bad about myself. It’s a tough pattern when you’re expected to be out in the world or performing on stage.”

Alice Skye in the BONDS Bloody Comfy range. Photo supplied.

Skye said she’s excited to be involved in a campaign that helps eliminate shame around having a period and treats it as the normal human experience that it is.

“I think we’re taught a lot of shame and so relationships with body image can be tough, especially as a young person,” she said.

“Treating periods as a taboo subject also creates a lot of misinformation.”

“It was nice to be involved in something that treats it as a very normal human experience.”

After years of feeling like she wasn’t reflected in ads, especially around periods, Skye is now happy to be fronting a campaign for others to feel represented and comfortable.

“Taking the shame or discomfort out of it makes way for the chance to explore your options of what’s comfortable, helpful or enjoyable,” said Skye.

You can listen to Alice Skye’s track from the BONDS Unplugged album here from Monday evening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmDy1Z8xTrU.