September 28, 2011

Keeping Places & Beyond: building cultural futures in NSW

Keeping culture strong through communities was a central theme of the M&G NSW organised Keeping Places & Beyond: building cultural futures in NSW summit, held at CarriageWorks on September 19/20 2011.

In bringing together, for the first time, over 150 people from across the Aboriginal arts, community & professional organisations, NSW cultural institutions, government agencies, the education sector, small business, Elders groups and individuals, the summit’s main aim was to discuss and shape the future for NSW Aboriginal cultural practice, local knowledge, heritage and language. This blackfella/whitefella meeting has been hailed a huge success by nearly all who attended.

People traveled from throughout NSW. Those who arrived on the Sunday could sample Barani Barrabugu, the city’s new heritage walking trails of significant Aboriginal sites or use their complimentary entry to the Australian Museum. Many travelers caught up with the city mobs at the welcome BBQ, put on by the City of Sydney, at Redfern Community Centre in the evening.

The Smoking Ceremony and Welcome Dance in the CarriageWorks main foyer started proceedings on Monday morning. Uncle Max Eulo conducted the ceremony which was followed by a culturally strong performance from the Doonooch Dancers, Yung Nooky (on didj) and boys from the East Nowra Public School. The dancers then led delegates into the meeting place. Delegates were welcomed to country by Auntie Millie Ingram, from the Wyanga Elders Group, Redfern. The cultural program was threaded throughout the two days, with a boomerang demonstration by Laddie Timbery, and performances by The Stiff Gins, Yung Nooky and Emma Donovan and her band.

As for the summit program, it featured presentations from a range of authoritative and informative speakers including; Professor Bob Morgan, Russell Taylor, Djon Mundine, Keith Munro, Beryl van Oploo, Phil Gordon, Dr Sandy O’Sullivan and artist, Jenny Fraser among others. Bob Morgan spoke about cultural identity and emphasized a theme that was to run through other presentations and conversations - that of the importance of self determination, of Aboriginal communities being sufficiently empowered to perform their own cultural maintenance, art form development and dissemination.

I certainly appreciated the opportunity to sit and listen as did many others. Those engaging or looking to engage in the sector made many useful contacts and like-minded approaches to build partnerships. A range of recommendations and suggestions to progress and build on momentum were discussed and agreed upon in the final sessions. They ranged across areas such as Heritage, Digitization, Art & Design, Community Engagement and ongoing connections to Government and other stakeholders. The summit’s reference committee will now give some further thought to these and their final report to Arts NSW will prioritise and chart a way forward. I do think it’s a great testament to the value of the conference that participants were keen to develop an ongoing network to continue to explore the ideas and opportunities raised over the two days, and that there was an expressed desire to meet again in a couple of years time to re-thread the picture with the work and developments in the interim.

The summit was organized and convened by Museums & Galleries NSW with core funding from Arts NSW. It was supported by Aboriginal Affairs NSW and NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

All Photos by Mervyn Bishop

Source: Museums and Galleries NSW- Alert! 28 September 2011

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