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Remarks by Provost Douglas Hicks at transfer of art ceremony at Curtin University

By Contributing Writer on May 14, 2013
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(Editor’s Note: Remarks by Douglas A. Hicks, provost and dean of faculty, at the transfer of art ceremony held at the Center for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University, in Perth, Australia, on May 8, 2013.)

Vice Chancellor Hacket, distinguished government officials, faculty and staff at Curtin and Colgate universities, and honored colleagues from Western Australia and the Noongar boodja:

Thank you for the generous welcome. There are so many people to thank here at Curtin and in Noongar country, and I could not name them all, people who have built up relationships with Colgate. These are just a few: Simon Forrest, Chris Malcolm, Ted Wilkes, Kim Scott, Julian Goddard, and Anna Haebich. And special appreciation to Jaime Philipps in nurturing Colgate’s relationship with Curtin.

And Noongar elders and leaders from the Great Southern: Mr Angus Wallam, Ezzard Flowers, Lynley Pickett, Sandra Hill, Peter Farmer, Eugene Eades, and Laurel Nannup.

You all have helped educate our 50 or more Colgate students who have come to Australia over the years to study the Carrolup art in its multiple contexts.

I am honored to represent Colgate University to mark this momentous return of a treasured art collection. This voluntary transfer of Carrolup children’s art became possible because of what we universities do best: teaching students about worlds unfamiliar to them, including histories of suffering; undertaking research and discovery; and acting collaboratively for the public good.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Carrolup Native Settlement and School. I stood on the dusty streets in front of what was the schoolhouse, and I was overcome with the vision of children—a hundred children—immensely imaginative and talented, persevering and expressing themselves through their drawing. Yesterday was a pilgrimage of sorts; not only a trek through the bush and down remote dirt roads, but a visit to a sacred, or set-apart, place.

I am told that for the Noongar, an emu can be found in the sky. This emu is located not by tracing the stars but, instead, by seeing in a new way the space among the stars. This being comes to life in the absence of stars. Similarly, the Carrolup settlement is located at the borderland of three shires. It was intentionally isolated, intentionally situated far from cities and towns. Yesterday I
was able to see, in a new way, not just a remote place, but a place full of humanity and the creative life of children.

At our ceremony today, the Carrolup school is far from absent. It is central in our minds, as we celebrate the resilience and notable talents of young boys who have left for us their art. They captured on paper visions of their environment that most of us were unable to see. Their remarkable human spirit continued to shine through despite harsh living conditions.

Indeed, these beautiful drawings communicate ‘care and love of country.’ Our Colgate students have had the privilege of hearing the stories of Carrolup directly from Noongar people and families; stories that have transformed their vision of the world.

It is now the time for the artwork to better serve Noongar, and all Australian, students – by teaching the strength and beauty of Noongar culture and heritage, and offering inspiration for the future.

We at Colgate University are pleased to have our story now be permanently intertwined with Curtin University and the Carrolup story. May the memory of the children of Carrolup, and their artwork, offer us all a pathway to the future. May we see in a new way collaborations for artistic educational benefit, and for improving the human condition for Noongar and other communities. And may we continue to build up the friendship between the Colgate community and all people of Western Australia.

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