With the actual federal government Australia is becoming
a society which is all the less just. People were left
without any illusions at the beginning of the 21st century
as compared to the optimism of past years. ...We achieved
significant goals, for example, at the beginning of the
seventies when an Australian Embassy was “installed”
in a tent in Canberra in front of the Parliament building.
This was an opportunity for radical Aborigine expression.
What was being sought was a form of Aborigine influence
on the Parliament and government structure. This was the
catalyst for change which exposed racism in Australia,
presented it to the international public domain and so
disgraced the government which was then compelled to develop
social consciousness. ...In the mid-eighties the Aboriginal
Art Center was founded in Sydney,
as a specific visualization of Aborigine issues. The political
presence of Aboriginals is closely connected to the art
movement which had been flowering for the last three decades.
During the nineties we achieved some very important goals
in connection with the law related to the Aborigine nation,
for example, land rights. This was followed by a discussion
on the right to indigenous names.
Hetti Perkins on Herself
I am a curator of The Art Gallery of New South Wales
in Sydney in North West Queensland. I belong to
the Aland peoples from Central Australia, and the
Quakabitu from New Queensland. I have four children
and live in Sydney.
I was born in 1965, the same year that my father,
Charles Perkins, as the first among the Aboriginals,
received a diploma from the University of Sydney.
So it can be said that the first Aboriginal only
graduated “recently”. My father, still
as a student, led the movement for Aborigine human
rights. He founded a foundation for Aborigine issues
in Sydney, where people would come from around the
whole country seeking help in finding work, housing...
My father was encouraged by Ted Noffs, a founder
of the alternative “Wayside Chapel”
(Family of All People) which embraced all religions.
He spurred my father to enroll in university in
order to obtain qualifications that were recognized
in society, and thus gain a voice which could act
within the structure of power in the realization
of his goals.
...My father once met a man
while traveling who compared contemporary Australia
with that of a cover spread out across the land.
The cover was white Australia, but when you lift
up a corner you uncover the black layer below, completely
preserved. Aboriginals are an integral part of the
land, the country; we say that we do not own it,
but that we come from it. ...Our sense and idea
of community was changed in order to accommodate
non-Aboriginals, which is nothing negative, rather,
it shows how strong the Aboriginal culture really
is. My father would say to me: “We cannot
live in the past, but the past lives in us.”
...We are now, it seems to me, despite all our achievements,
in danger of sliding backwards...
...Aboriginals are the lowest socio-economic group in
Australia and I do not believe that this will change significantly
any time soon, especially with the current government.
I don’t believe that this society, at least not
until the end of the 21st century, will be able to be
considered a just one.
...Aboriginals have restricted access to healthcare, running
water and housing, and education compared with white people.
There are significantly a greater number of them in jails.
And there continues to be a high mortality rate of indigenous
inhabitants as opposed to immigrant Australians. Aboriginals,
also, more often suffer from kidney, heart and lung disease.
There is a high level of drug abuse and domestic violence
which we cannot observe as isolated cases, but rather
as a consequence of traumatic experiences, as a specific
type of posttraumatic shock of the “stolen generations”.
Whole families were separated actively, broken up; it
was not assimilation that was carried out on them, rather
Most Aboriginals today live in cities, and one of the
most important community in Sydney so that there institutions
located here which deal with their specific needs and
problems: services for healthcare and legal aid, children’s
...Currently, the worst fact, in a philosophical sense,
is that the Aborigine nation and the Aborigine issue no
longer exists. At the last federal elections, there was
no mention made of the Aborigine issue, nor was it posed
on a political level.
Voice of Australia
...In the last little while, there has been an increase
in the number of people who are declaring themselves as
Aboriginals, which is the result of achieved political
goals of the past 30 years, but Aboriginals still constitute
a small part of the population, less than 2% of the population,
that is, altogether some hundred thousand. And in addition
to this, our presence in the international framework is
rather significant, especially in art. Art production
is a way of expression of the Aboriginal peoples, who
are in themselves, the “voice of Australia”.
In particular, it is the performing arts which are central,
especially dance, contemporary dance. The songs of our
singers are popular hits, we are also strong in theatre.
In the area of visual arts we are represented at international
biennials in conjunction with exhibits of Australian art.
...Aboriginals are for Australia some kind of visual sign-identity...
For some Aboriginal communities artistic creation is even
the only form of economic entrepreneurship tied in with
tourism. The opening of the Olympic Games 2000 in Sydney
represented a one-of-a-kind celebration of Aboriginal
culture. ...In Australia there many indigenous languages
and nations still exist, but today they nevertheless form
an integral community that often spreads its political
message through visual arts - as a “scalpel in a
by: Silva Kalčić
One of seven video-interviews which Andreja Kulunčić and
Ivo Martinović conducted in Sydney in October, 2002, within
the presentation of the project Distributive Justice in
the Artspace Gallery (Arts in Residency program).
The politics of “assimilation”, that is, of
forced removal of part-Aboriginal children from indigenous
families, was abolished in Australia in 1969. Children
were removed, often with violent confrontations, by missionaries
who would then give them up for adoption, or to the so-called
“care” of white parents who would bring them
up as their own offspring, mostly “light-skinned”
children. Hence this is where the term “stolen generations”
Note by: S. Kalčić