Warrnambool Art Gallery (WAG) has received funding from the Helen McPherson Smith Trust to develop a program of Aboriginal-led activities, exhibitions and outreach programs to help understand, preserve and share the Maar Nation culture of South West Victoria and strengthen identity, cultural tourism and employment for local Aboriginal youth. This project will enable Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal people access to artefacts, knowledge and stories to ensure the continuation of culture. There are three main aspects to the project:
WAG is the custodian of a number of Aboriginal artefacts which have been in the collection since the gallery’s foundation. To mark the beginning of this important project, Aboriginal Elders from the region and from Aboriginal Victoria were invited to view the collection in its entirety. This was a private moment and a cleansing smoking ceremony was performed by Elder, Uncle Robbie Lowe. In liaison with Aboriginal Victoria, all items have now been documented for registration according to the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act 2016. The future placement of items identified as secret and sacred objects is under consideration.
A vital aspect to this project is the appointment of a paid intern who will undertake curatorial roles as well as being an important link between the Gallery and local communities. This position will only be available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates. They will have the support of a staff member for two years and through development, training and on-the-job experience, by the third year, will be able to lead the project independently.
To support these activities WAG has established a dedicated exhibition space which will act as a base and hub for the project. It is hoped this space will also provide a meeting room for the local community to come together. Details such as the name of the space and project will be decided upon by the Aboriginal Community led by the Intern and an Advisory group made up of South West Elders and cultural leaders.
Image: Pictured from left John Clarke, Vicki Couzens, Christina Saunders, Robbie Lowe with Robbie Lowe Senior. Courtesy of WAG.