Our project involves the production of a feature length documentary focused on the Story of the Aboriginal child artists of Carrolup, one of the most important post-colonisation stories of the Noongar people of South West Australia. The documentary will be supported by a unique Storytelling, Education and Healing web-based resource that contains a wealth of content focused on the Story and related issues.
When teacher Noel White arrived at Carrolup Native Settlement in Western Australia (WA) in 1946, he was unable to communicate with the traumatised Aboriginal children as they were so fearful. The children had been removed from their families as part of government policy and lived in squalid conditions. Mr White connected with the children and inspired them to create beautiful artworks that gained public acclaim. They also displayed outstanding educational, musical and sporting achievements.
Seventy-one-year old Englishwoman Mrs Florence Rutter was so captivated by the children and their art after visiting Carrolup, she asked the government if she could promote the art. They agreed. In 1950, whilst Mrs Rutter was exhibiting the artworks to much public acclaim in Europe, Mr White faced intensified jealousies and conflicts with other white staff at Carrolup. The government closed the school at the end of the year.
The children’s dreams of a better future were shattered by this closure, and by the adversities they faced in a white-dominated society that considered them 'inferior'. The dreams of one artist, Revel Cooper, became a nightmare when he faced a charge of murder in the state’s Supreme Court.
The Carrolup Story has never been told in full. It is a Story which shows the resilience of Noongar children in the face of considerable adversity. The children’s talents and achievements challenged the foundation of a government’s racist policies. Their art inspired four generations of Noongar artists.
The film will in part be based on the book Aboriginal Child Artists of Carrolup written by David Clark, an Emeritus Professor of Psychology, and John Stanton, former Director of the Berndt Museum of Anthropology, to be published in early 2019. It will provide insights into John Stanton’s 40- year journey investigating the Carrolup Story, which included helping bring back to WA part of Mrs. Rutter’s ‘lost’ Carrolup collection from the USA that was exhibited in Katanning in 2006. The Carrolup Story still unfolds today.
The film will involve a narrator; interviews with Noongar Elders and artists, survivors of Carrolup, and other Noongar people; experts in the field of healing trauma; the voices of actors, and re-enactments.
Our web-based resource will contain a wealth of content (film, text, audio) related to the Story, galleries of our ‘assets’ (artworks, photos, documents, letters, etc), and education about the healing of trauma.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead, US anthropologist
Our project focuses on a major issue in society today, and one that concerns philanthropic foundations, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people. In particular, we aim to facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma and its consequences (e.g. addiction, mental health problems, suicide) amongst Aboriginal people. Empowerment and Connection are the foundation of such healing. People are empowered to heal by giving them hope (that healing is possible), understanding (of how healing can be achieved), and a sense of belonging. Connecting Aboriginal people to their culture, land, spirituality, family, community and history is key to healing.
Five years ago, David Clark developed the educational initiative Sharing Culture to help facilitate the healing of trauma. He emphasised the importance of adopting a strengths-based, solution-focused approach that celebrates success and cultivates positivity, acceptance and cultural pride. David has always believed in the power of Story in facilitating the healing process.
In John Stanton and Simon Akkerman, he has found two kindred spirits who also believe strongly in the healing power of Story. They have both worked with Aboriginal people for many years. They are recognised experts in their respective fields. John’s 40-year involvement with the Carrolup Story includes organising exhibitions of the children’s beautiful artworks to appreciative audiences. The complementary skills of these three individuals are just what this project needs.
Our documentary film and web-based resource will ensure a long-lasting impact. They will help create cultural pride amongst Aboriginal people, thereby facilitating connection to culture and, in turn, healing of historical trauma. They will empower Aboriginal people and catalyse grassroots activity. Our project will enhance awareness amongst non-Aboriginal people, thereby helping reduce the racism and prejudice which are barriers to healing. We want to ensure that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people walk alongside each other on equal terms to help improve society.
In the future, we will ensure that our website is handed over to a highly respected institution, such as our partner the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia, so that the Carrolup Story and our educational content can impact on future generations of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Our project is based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy, empowerment and trust.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
Seventy years ago, Aboriginal children of Carrolup ‘reached out’ to white society with their beautiful landscape drawings. The 71-year old Englishwoman Mrs. Florence Rutter told the Carrolup boys that she would do all in her power to make their Story and artwork known throughout the world. We will take up Mrs. Rutter’s mantle, having in our possession far more powerful tools to tell, and distribute, this Story to the world. We will not only celebrate the ‘success’ of these Aboriginal children, but also show the devastating impact of European colonisation and the adversities it created, and continues to create, for Aboriginal peoples.
We aim to ensure our documentary and accompanying web-based resource are seen by a worldwide audience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The primary aim of our project is to facilitate the healing of Aboriginal people in Australia, as well as Indigenous groups in other parts of the world. We intend that our project educate and inspire people, as well as catalyse activity at a grassroots level.
Noel White, the teacher at Carrolup, was ahead of his time in helping the children heal from trauma. He demonstrated the key components of healing - including creating an environment of safety, empowerment and connection - long before the experts of today. Our film and web-based resource will enhance awareness in society of what is required to help Aboriginal people overcome historical trauma and its consequences.
Whilst healing comes from the individual, the process of healing is influenced by the community. Therefore, we also aim to educate and inform non-Aboriginal people, to help wider society create safe and empathic environments in which healing can take place. Our project will show the negative impact of prejudice and racism, and how they act as barriers to healing.
We aim to help non-Aboriginal people learn from Aboriginal people and their culture. For example, there is much that Aboriginal people can teach us about protecting the environment. Moreover, their holistic approach to wellbeing is far richer than western culture’s view of mental health.
David and John have extensive experience of monitoring the impact of a project like this through their past work as psychologist and anthropologist, respectively. We will monitor the impact of our project via our website and social media, as well as in the communities we work. We will also talk regularly with Aboriginal Elders (and other community members) about the ongoing impact of the project, and receive feedback via our website. We will study how widely our film is distributed, viewer numbers and reviews.
We aim to create a ripple effect of hope and healing amongst Aboriginal people. We also intend that the resources we develop are passed on to our viewers’ children and grandchildren, ensuring that they facilitate indigenous healing across generations. Trauma has crossed generations – healing can do the same.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
“The first step in re-establishing healthy communities is to acknowledge and understand the impact of the colonial legacy on the lives of Aboriginal people today and the various pathways necessary for healing from historical trauma, using both cultural and contemporary understandings and processes.” Pat Dudgeon, Helen Milroy and Roz Walker
Our web-based Storytelling, Education and Healing resource will form an important part of our education and outreach strategy. We have access to a wealth of ‘assets’ - photographs, documents, letters (including from the Carrolup children), newspaper clippings, pictures of the art and schoolwork, the School Journal, and archive film material. We have been working with Noel White’s daughter Noelene, so have access to Carrolup-related family ‘treasures’.
Our project takes the first step to helping re-establish healthy Aboriginal people and communities by telling a Story that not only highlights the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people, but also shows the resilience of Aboriginal children in the face of great adversity. Our Story creates cultural pride which facilitates cultural connection and, in turn, healing. Our project will provide a great deal of educational content about the colonisation process, trauma and its impact, the healing of trauma, and Aboriginal culture.
Our outreach strategy has various components. Firstly, we are targeting local Noongar people and their communities, as this Story is an important part of their identity. Noongar Elders have made it clear to us how important this Story is to them, and also how few Noongar people know the Story of Carrolup. We have good contacts within Noongar communities; we will enhance our profile by holding public events in South West communities. We will ask our extensive list of contacts to tell their friends about us.
Secondly, we will promote our film and web-based resource to other Aboriginal groups around Australia, and to Indigenous peoples elsewhere, e.g. Native Americans, First Nations Peoples of Canada. Our project is relevant to Indigenous people worldwide who have suffered from intergenerational trauma as a result of European colonisation. From past experience, we know that community leaders (and other ‘healing carriers’) will tell other people about our film and make use of, and pass on, our educational content.
Thirdly, we aim to create a large audience amongst non-Indigenous people. Many people will be entertained and inspired by the captivating Carrolup Story, and will want to learn more. This is a Story that will continue into the future, as we monitor and report on the changes that occur as more and more people hear about and learn from the Story. The impact of trauma and its consequences is increasing in Western culture, so an increasing number of people will want to learn about the healing of trauma.
We consider it essential to promote our project to schools, universities and other educational establishments to inspire and engage young people. We feel strongly that the Carrolup Story is one which should be taught in all schools in the South West of Australia. Finally, we want to ‘re-enact’ Mrs. Rutter’s ‘Carrolup journey’ to Europe, giving talks in places that she held exhibitions.