Little Rundle Street

Well it’s done! Finished!!! 

I don’t quite know what to do with myself now. On Friday, we had the opening of The Little Rundle Street Arts Project with a massive street party. Thousands of people came, street food, boutique wines; it was an amazing, electric atmosphere! 

I thought I’d throw together some of my favourite photos from the start of the artwork right through to opening night. I did two pieces; Municipal Gum and Burnt Scrub. 

Enjoy! 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

THANKYOU all so much all your support during this project. It’s been absolutely hectic and a massive learning curve for me as an artist. My husband keeps telling me that this is only the beginning. Let’s hope that he’s right! 

 

Scale Up. 

So as you all know by now I’m an Aboriginal Artist. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to collaborate with different groups with some unique projects – but then my good friend Emma messages me: “are you interested in doing some street art?” She asks. “Hells yes I want to do some street art! Tell me more!”

It turned out that her sister Claire, owner of the Tin Cat Cafe on Rundle street, an Adelaide institution. She, frustrated with the council response to her request to decrease the speed limit on Little Rundle Street where her cafe backs on to, which is only wide enough to fit one car and is currently a 50kph speed zone, started a campaign to get some attention. And then the Little Rundle Street Art project was born. She went door to door asking permission to paint on walls and fences, to make Little Rundle Street such a spectacle that one would have no choice but to slow down to admire all the amazing street art. She then won a cultural grant from the Fringe Festival and thus it became part of the Fringe Festival! She showed me the wall she had in mind for me…. It was… Large. 

Like huge. Genuinely monsterous! 95 square meters big. So I went home and talked it over with my husband who was super supportive and said I couldn’t not do it. So preparations were made, permission sought and we were ready to start! I painted a concept piece called Municipal Gum – taken from one of my favourite poems by Aboriginal poet Ooderoo Noonuccal, of which I’ll elaborate on later. I gave an interview to a team from Channel 9 about the fringe. It was a serious sit down interview and they asked me what experience did I have working on this scale and how would I do it? My answer? None, and I have no idea – I’m basically going to wing it. I’ll just do it in the same basic method and hope for the best!!! The day before I was due to start I had a freak out; I was so overwhelmed by the size, so I contemplated another smaller wall. Then Emma said: “why not do both??” ….why not?!? 

We went down a couple of Sundays ago to paint the base. We had some helpers, but my husband did much of it – all of the high stuff anyway! 

   
The following day I went back, alone. It was then that I realised that I would need to get up higher. And I don’t like heights. I did as much as I could down low and then I heard a repetitive beeping that I would come to know intimately – the sound of the scissor-lift. Those things look stable but they are as rickety as anything when you extend them up. The good thing is that it tells you when you’re up too high or on uneven ground! I became inovative and taped a paint-market to an extender-pole so that I could draw the lines and maintain much needed perspective.  

    
   
Then it was time for the dots!! I decided to try my hand at using aerosols! I tried to get the best looking, cleanest dots I could in a timely manner and none of the nibs (the lid) were giving my dots I was happy with – so I drew a stencil and then sprayed through it, repeating it. 

   
    
 
I am absolutely thrilled with the way it’s turned out. I’m so freaking happy with it and proud of everyone’s efforts! I had so much help and I am so utterly grateful for the help! So this is what I wrote about this piece, as taken from my Aboriginal Art Facebook page:

“Municipal Gum” 

95m2

Rundle Street, Kent Town. 

Mixed media
“Gumtree in the city street, 

Municipal Gum 

Hard bitumen around your feet, 

Rather you should be 

In the cool world of leafy forest halls 

And wild bird calls 

Here you seems to me 

Like that poor cart-horse 

Castrated, broken, a thing wronged, 

Strapped and buckled, its hell prolonged, 

Whose hung head and listless mien express 

Its hopelessness. 

Municipal gum, it is dolorous 

To see you thus 

Set in your black grass of bitumen– 

O fellow citizen, 

What have they done to us?”

-Oodgeroo Noonuccal
This piece, entitled “municipal gum”, after Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poem. This is a piece about growth, and struggle. The challenges that come with personal growth. In this piece, I have depicted the concept of growth and of challenge; in the growth rings of the red gum. Each ring on the cross-section of a tree represents something about that season. Perhaps it was a year of bounty – of glorious rain and sunshine. Perhaps it was a year of low-rain fall and concrete placed around its base to make room for a footpath or a roadway. A year of challenge and conflict. Each ring tells a story. Each ring is different. In the poem, Oodgeroo speaks of foreign challenges; of majestic gums surrounded by colonisation, at odds with its own natural existence. In a similar vein, as an Aboriginal Australians, we too have been scarred by colonisation. Of stolen children. Of genocide. Of dispossession. But we grow, we heal, we survive, we thrive. In this respect – we really aren’t that different. We all must adapt, we all have stories to tell; stories that we carry within us always. 
-Elizabeth Close
Tis Done. What an absolutely monumental effort. I absolutely could not have done this alone. Massive shout out to Claire, Emma, Danae, Melissa, Ruby, Lainey, James, Jason and Jack for all their help – it was deeply appreciated. 
To all my online peeps; thanks for your words of support and encouragement! It means a lot! 
Finally – to my husband and children; who are truly my biggest supporters; Without their love, patience, understanding, support, flexibility and adaptability I would never succeed. Particularly my husband Matt, who cops the tasks of kid-wrangling, courier, base-painter, and who just generally always steps up when I take on mammoth endeavours like this – THANKYOU. Your support means more to me than I could ever put down in words. Thanks, and can we please have take-away for dinner?!! 
On to piece number 2!! 

I don’t care for your brand of racism. 

This morning started like any other. I woke up with my 5 year olds foot in my face and my 2 year old buried up against my chest. I extricated myself and got up. Today I was heading out to work on one of my pieces of street art for the Little Rundle Street Arts Project. I’ve been lucky enough to try my hand at some work at an epic scale and I’m stoked to say that my first piece came together beautifully and somehow I pulled it off. I’m going back today, kids in tow, to work on my second piece. I get dressed in my best, paintiest clothes and chase the kids around getting them dressed: “Mum I’m hungry!” exclaims Min. “Let’s stop and get something on the way – it’s Tuesday – let’s stop at the bakery!” “It won’t be open….. It’s a public holiday.” My husband interjects. He was very careful to say “public holiday” rather than the actual name – sensitive to my feelings on the subject. As soon as he said that, I felt deflated. I was reminded that today is the day that the rest of Australia celebrates the beginning of the destruction of my people and our way of life. Today is the day that the rest of Australia celebrates our dispossession, oppression, and genocide; with tacky singlets, BBQ’s and drunkeness. Of course naturally, and somewhat ironically, they argue that they’re celebrating the making of a nation. Of inclusiveness and diversity! Of muticulturalism! Of the building of a great nation! A nation that was built on illegal occupation, theft of land, of sovereignty that never ceded. Of women raped, children stolen. For Aboriginal Australia, there is no question that today is a day of mourning. 

Why then, on a day that should unite us, does it divide us so?  

Because January 26th is irrelevant to modern Australia. It commemorates the day that the British claimed sovereignty over the Easten Seaboard of Australia – hardly relevant to the rest of Australia. But what it does symbolise is the adverse effects of colonisation and invasion for Aboriginal people. The beginning of the end of our way of life. 

There are many dates that would hold significance for modern Australia, and I won’t list them here – one needs only to look at the timeline of modern Australian History to see this. One I personally like is moving it back to the 25th of January – but one day – a symbolic gesture that captures the last day that we and we alone were the custodians of this great land. It’s still in the Australian Summer; it retains the same distribution of public holidays… But it won’t happen. And I’ll tell you why; 

I stopped at the shops on the way back home from working on my street art piece, and my baby daughter got out of the car. In her typical, gives-no-fucks fashion, she ran off and I called her back, speaking to her, as I often do, in our native Pitjantjatjara language: “Awa! Ngala pitja! Pitja!!! Wanti! (Hey! Come here! Come! Stop!) and a 20-something woman with Australian-flag novelty-leggings yelled at me: “hey! It’s Australia Day! We speak English in Australia!!” I was aghast. I thought surely she must be joking. I’ve read stories of things like this on the internet but surely it doesn’t happen in real life. “Pardon me?” I asked. “It’s AUS-STRAYA-DAY. WE SPEAK ENG-LISH” she said obnoxiously, speaking slowly as to ensure comprehension because obviously I’m either intellectually disabled or stupid. “I’m speaking my native Australian Aboriginal language. It’s Pitjantjatjara? I couldn’t get more Australian!!” She stared at me blankly before walking off. I stood there, having witnessed the most overt form of racism that I personally have ever received, and my eyes welled with tears. Not for me; I’ve got thick, paint-splattered skin, I’ll move on. No, my eyes welled for the little Anangu girl that I held in my arms, seemingly oblivious to the hate-filled scene that had developed before her. Would she and her brother encounter such vile, overt racism when they grow up? No – surely we will have grown as people and as a nation! I told myself. 

But then I remember that today is, rather than the multicultural-love-fest White Australia would have us believe; a state-sanctioned celebration of the destruction of a culture. Of my culture. And until we stop holding BBQ’s in the name of genocide, we can’t move forward. We can’t join hands as a nation. So one has to ask oneself: is it really worth it, white Australia? Can you live with the fact that not-all Australians want to engage in your culturally insensitive discourse today? Not everyone feels patriotic joy today? Is that acceptable to you? 

Of course it is. 

Because it’s difficult to be heard above all the white noise. 

Unless you’re really listening. 

Still here 

I haven’t updated you in a while – life, kids, work, art, fighting the fight – takes up all my time! But there have been significant developments that I want to share.

I met again with Tim Ryan and Tony Harrison – this time, Tony seemed to have been genuinely receptive to my reccomendations and has addressed them. Things that can be implemented, have been – but there is a long way to go. Some of my reccomendations it seems, were borne from misinformation. The principal of one Anangu school spoke of being in the red – and allegedly took artwork from the school and auctioned them to purchase iPads for the school. It seems that APY schools are not as under-funded as it seems – I wonder if the issues are with the allocation and use (or mis-use) of funding instead? 

It was a positive meeting and I left feeling that perhaps I might finally be able to see the change that I’m striving for. But Tim Ryan summed it up – when I posed the question to them both: “what would you do, if you had unlimited funds and resources?” Tim said that he thought that nothing we can do right now will end sexual violence and dysfunction in community altogether right now – but if we get it right, and get it right now – we will see a positive generational change; a shift in attitudes and a shift in behaviour and conduct. But we need to do this thoughtfully and meaningfully. 

I also met recently with Tammy Franks – the Greens MP – who gave up a significant amount of time on a Friday night to listen to my story and my concerns. The plan going forward is this:

  • To speak to Joseph (Eddie) Hughes – the sitting member for the seat of Giles which encompasses the APY lands. 
  • To speak to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Stading Committee about presenting to them – in whicb parliamentary privilege would extend to me, indemnifying me against people who would try to have me silenced. They are waiting for a response from the minister before we move forward – I’ll be very interested to hear what she says.
  • Nigel Scullion…. I can’t say I’m optimistic about contacting him – but as my opinion on Steven Marshall has completely flipped – possibly I need to wait and see! 
  • To draft a submission to the Nyland inquiry
  • To draft a submission to the Premier’s inquiry about early years education and the impact of disadvantage here. 
  • To draft a reflective piece for submission and hopefully publication in education, health, or social science journal/s. I have a wonderful academic who does much peer reviewing on board to help me here! She suggested this as an alternative means to get this information to the foreground of academia – where possibly it will be noticed. I like this idea and need to make time to sit down and do this! 

In recent days I’ve received some feedback from someone I have an enormous amount of respect, time and admiration for – that she was concerned about my lack of communication and consultation with Anangu Elders – namely the women. Which would be difficult from the city – but not impossible, and perhaps I should have tried harder. I knew that not everyone would agree with my ideas, my process, my goals. I also know that much of the information regarding my campaign and my actions that has filtered through will largely have come from Pirinpa (white people) up there, who have openly criticised, mocked, questioned, disparaged and denigrated me – and I’d suggest that information isn’t necessarily reliable. But even if this information came first-hand from my words alone – it isn’t Anangu way. I know that. There is a bitter conflict in my heart about what I want to change, but how I know I should behave – and it hurts me. It hurts me deeply. But what hurts me more, and what I cannot walk past, is those tiny little souls who’s life-path, sense of being and sense of self, is being damaged. I under stand that not everyone can be a whistle-blower, for a hundred different reasons. And some people can scaffold and support from the inside, and do more good by keeping silent than not. 

Anangu – Nganana! We all need to work towards a better future for our tjiitjii. Please know that everything I do – I do for the betterment of our children’s lives and for the future of Anangu – to preserve our culture and our way. I know I don’t speak for Anangu. I just so desperately want to end the prolific sexual abuse of children. I’m sincerely sorry if I need to step out of line to do it. 

An Update. 

Today, Steven Marshall, Liberal leader of the Opposition asked some questions to the Minister for Education and Chikd Development on the subject of the APY Lands in Question Time. This is the her reply, as taken from Hansard:

  Mr MARSHALL (Dunstan—Leader of the Opposition) (14:19): Is the minister aware of a situation involving a teacher on the APY lands who was initially denied a transfer on compassionate grounds, despite the alleged sexual assault of his wife and children on the grounds of the school?

                The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for the Public Sector) (14:20): I am aware that a case has been raised which is probably consistent with what you are saying, but in no way do I therefore endorse and say that what you have raised is a correct allegation or is even an allegation that has necessarily and in exactly those terms been made to you. But I believe that I know the case that you are making reference to, however accurately or inaccurately, and I am aware that work is occurring within the department on that.

                Mr MARSHALL (Dunstan—Leader of the Opposition) (14:20): Perhaps the minister could outline to the house what action she has taken to prevent situations like this occurring in the future?

                The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for the Public Sector) (14:20): ‘Situations like this’—I was just very clear that the allegation that the leader has constructed may or may not be the allegation that has been made by someone who has raised that and may or may not in fact be the allegations that have been made to the department. So, it is an impossible question to answer when you say ‘situations like this’.

 

               Mr MARSHALL (Dunstan—Leader of the Opposition) (14:21): Perhaps the minister could clarify what part of the allegation she does not support?

                The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for the Public Sector) (14:21): No, I will not be clarifying.

I’ll be meeting again with the Ministers Chief Of Staff and Tony Harrison next week, and Tammy Franks from the Greens. I will not stay silent – I will not stop fighting for Anangu 

I won’t walk past. 

CARL

CARL – or the Chikd Abuse Report Line; is vastly under resources and underfunded. The way in which mandated notifier s report abuse, needs a drastic overhaul- and it cannot come soon enough. 

In my capacity as a Registered Nurse, I’ve made countless reports to CARL, and it’s always a challenging process. Usually I need to lock myself away in the nurses station because I’m anticipating a considerable wait – sometimes up to 2 hours. But the number of reports I’ve done, is nothing compared to the number of notifiable incidents or suspicions that are reported, or should be reported in the APY Lands. Teachers on the lands have told me that they have waited up to 3 hours to make a single report. And it’s an unreasonable expectation that staff should make reports in their own time. Understandably, many events that would otherwise go reported, are pushed aside until teachers have time, and then forgotten; and not reported. This contributes to the ignorance of the gravity of the atrocities occurring on the APY by management and ministry. Worse still, there is an entrenched culture of acceptance of sexualised behaviour – things that should be reported, are not. And that’s a big problem. Having spoken with child protection staff, they reveal that many reports go unread and not acted upon, because there is only so much they can do with limited time, funding and resources. You can’t help but understand why teaching staff, armed with the knowledge that their report may never be read, might choose not to spend 3 hours on the phone to CARL reporting it. Because what’s the point? 

There is a teacher on the APY lands who probably should not be there. This teacher was allegedly witnessed by another staff member to be physically abusing Anangu children in his capacity at the school. This was reported and seemingly ignored. Furthermore, it has been alleged by senior service providers outside of the school, that somewhere in the order of 96 mandatory reports have been made about this man and the harming of Anangu children. Many of these reports were made by CAHMS workers themselves. Reports were also made on behalf of Anangu families, whose children had been harmed by this man. Rather than this man being removed from the classroom and the APY lands, he has just been awarded a 5 year contract as a permanent relief teacher, where he has less accountability and more capacity to abuse. CAHMS workers in his current schools have allegedly been told to “watch him” 

I wonder if the CARL had appropriate funding and resources, if this would have been addressed. How many children have we failed? 

How many more tjiitjii need to be abused before we act? 

Swimming upstream.

Amata is one of a handful of APY communities that have a swimming pool. But pools are inherently challenging in the APY – hard to staff, hard to manage. When I was living in Amata, I spent a couple of weeks hanging out at the pool because I was the only person with relevant medical training and a DCSI clearance that was available.. The pool manager, was quirky; but efficient, and I largely got on well with him despite some angst between him and the school staff. The pool is open only during terms 1 and 4 and closed for the winter – and the job of the pool manager is a contract for that term.

Currently, Amata Anangu community is the only community on the APY lands whose swimming pool is closed. No big deal right? Wrong. Unfortunately when the pool is closed the Anangu kids find more innovative ways to keep cool in the scorching heat of Central Australia – but their creativity is laden with risk. Kids will try and swim in the town water tanks, which compromises the health of the water supply and is quite dangerous – the tanks are elevated and the risk of drowning is much higher here than in a supervised pool. They swim in the water-treatment storage ponds that are colloquially known as the “kuna ponds”  – which translates to the shit ponds – they are literally swimming in shit. This is why I was happy to help – the thought of kids becoming unwell or dying because they couldn’t access the pool was too much. 

The job for the pool manager has been advertised twice now, and the pool has remained closed because presumably there was a lack of suitable applicants. This is despite the previous pool manager and the manager before him expressing their interest in the role and being turned away. This is complicated by the fact that the Deputry Prinicpalis living in the “pool house” – hence a lack of housing is another barrier to the pool being opened. However the Department of Premeier and Cabinet have a house that has been previously accessed and “leased” to the department of education. 
The pools continued closure may seem like a trivial issue, but for every day that it remains closed – kids are being put at risk. Come on DECD – act on this immediately.