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Curtin’s plan to give rare artworks by Nyungar children a place to call home

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Curtin University has launched an ambitious campaign to create a Carrolup Centre for Truth-telling – a permanent home for a collection of rare artworks created by Aboriginal children of Australia’s Stolen Generations. This Centre will serve as a foundation for a whole-of-University initiative to engage the wider community in truth-telling, healing and reconciliation.

Aboriginal Elders are working closely with Curtin to develop this ground-breaking project, as part of Curtin University’s ‘Elevate’ Reconciliation Action Plan. Contributions are now being sought to help fund the establishment of this important and special space, which is expected to cost around $15 million.

The artworks were created by Aboriginal children who were forcibly separated from their families and detained at the Carrolup Native Settlement in the 1940s near Katanning, Western Australia. Their hand-drawn landscapes in chalk and pastels speak to the steadfast resilience of Aboriginal people against the greatest of odds, and their deep, spiritual connection to culture and Country.

The collection has survived a remarkable 70-year journey circumnavigating the world. After attracting international attention in 1950, it was eventually purchased by New York art collector Herbert Mayer who later donated the works to the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, New York in 1966.

The collection sat forgotten in storage at Colgate until it was discovered by chance almost 50 years later and eventually returned to Nyungar country when Curtin University was granted custodianship.

Mr Tony Hansen, Chair of the Carrolup Elders Reference Group said the Centre will shed light on the true stories of the Stolen Generations by allowing the voices of the Carrolup children to be heard.

“The Carrolup Centre will commemorate how young Aboriginal children – forcibly separated from their families, isolated, segregated, traumatised and living in an unknown place – still found beauty and connection to country through their art. It will be an enduring reminder that while racism seeks to destroy all that is good about a people, it never can. Like water, cultural beauty and goodness always finds a way; at Carrolup, that way was through children,” Mr Hansen said.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Cordery said he was proud to launch the project that aims to give these historic and beautiful works a permanent home.

“These extraordinary artworks offer an insight into a sad period in our country’s history and the enduring qualities of Western Australia’s Nyungar community. They deserve their own space to ensure that more people are able to access and learn from them,” Professor Cordery said.

“We hope that, with financial support from corporations and the community, the Carrolup Centre will also become an important focal point for reconciliation.

John Curtin Gallery Director Chris Malcolm said Curtin is now calling on all members of the community, individuals and organisations, to help turn the vision for the Carrolup Centre into a reality.

“Our gallery is privileged to be the custodian of this extraordinary collection and believe it should be shared and recognised by people everywhere. We are asking both business leaders and community members to own this space with the Nyungar community, by making a financial contribution to ensure we can build a lasting and easily accessible home for these works of such profound cultural significance,” Mr Malcolm said.

“All donors who make a gift or fulfil a pledge over three years will be acknowledged as Founding Donors of this historic project which will allow the important lessons of these artworks to be passed on to local, national and international communities. Together we can create a permanent place for the artworks to call home in Nyungar country where they were created and where they belong.”

For more information on the Carrolup story and to become a donor please visit here.

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