After leaving Melbourne in May 1986 for a year long holiday around Australia to see my own country, I never returned. First stop was Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community 300 km north-west of Alice Springs to stay with a friend. It was small (only around 1,000 residents), dusty and remote (no telephones or TV reception) and through a weird quirk of fate and serendipity it became my home for the next 2.5 years. After a small amount of tokenistic volunteering at the Adult Education Centre putting house paint on artists’ canvases in lieu of gesso, I was unexpectedly offered the role of Art Coordinator with the newly established Warlukurlangu Artists Association. Despite the shock (and not having a CV for the role) I said ‘Yes!’. It was an extraordinary, blessed time to fall into the Indigenous Australian remote community arts sector. My employer(s) was a Committee of 16 Aboriginal people and it was an incredible introduction to remote living, First Nations Art and Culture and Warlpiri people – to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. That event shaped the next 35 years of my life working for and with Aboriginal/Indigenous artists and organisations around Australia.
Since that first role my work has gone on to include: art centre management, business management consulting, research, writing, exhibition curation, gallery owner, project coordinator, book publishing, social entrepreneur, lobbyist and professional volunteer. The organisations I have worked for and with include 50+ community art centres, peak bodies including ANCAAA, Desart, ANKA, Ananguku Arts and UMI Arts, cultural and ecotourism organisations, institutions, government and other consultants around Australia and in Cambodia. Details here.
Thankfully I have been able to work at things I am passionate about and with people I care about. It has been life-long learning as the sector has developed and gained international attention. Slowly mainstream Australia became aware of the fundamental importance of Indigenous culture and heritage to our national identity.
The Kunwinjku people of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) have been a large part of my life. In 1991 I was appointed Manager of Injalak Arts for the first time. I arrived with two very young children and left in 2015 with three. It was a challenging time that involved a lot of laughing and learning and a few tears. It is a complex community on the western border of Arnhem Land. I returned in 2013 as a consultant and by accident (!) that morphed into the role of Mentor Manager. Six incredible years followed until I left the art centre in early 2019.
I am passionate about fostering mainstream respect for Indigenous knowledge and ways of being. From childhood I was in awe of Australia’s First Peoples and having the opportunity to work closely with hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists/custodians of culture from all over the country was something I didn’t even dare to dream about.
I am also an environmentalist activist and Permaculture practitioner. In 1998 I bought a 100 acre property in Wangary, South Australia and moved there with my (then) three children. Over the years it has been extensively vegetated with perennial plantings. On a quarter acre block in Coffin Bay where we currently reside I have planted a mini food forest.
I’m a mother of four wonderful humans from 20 – 34 and a grandmother to three.
After living and working out bush for 10 years I fell into consulting. Being a mother it was becoming harder to take on full time roles in remote places. One day my oldest child said ‘no more moving round mum’ so we settled on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia in 1998. There I focused on finishing writing up the data for the The Art & Craft Centre Story Volumes I-III that were published in 199/2000. Initially it seemed like an end to working with remote communities, which I had loved. What started as a constraint turned out to be a blessing because over the 15 years from 1995 – 2010 I had opportunities to travel and work extensively around Australia with many wonderful people in dozens of remote communities and towns in WA, SA, QLD and NT.
For a change of flavour and experience I lived in Cambodia for two years as a Business Management Adviser under the Australian Volunteers International program from 2010-12. Returning to Australia in 2013 I consulted for more two years before focusing exclusively on my role as Mentor Manager for Injalak Arts until early 2019.
I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with individuals and organisations to build a more inclusive, ethical and ecological society that is respectful of Indigenous ways of being. Making good business – strong social enterprises – is one way of doing that, and one I particularly enjoy.
See here details of places and scope of work, consultancies and major projects.