Council strategy finds a lack of understanding of Bendigo's Indigenous culture, suggests art and tourism as answers

Damian Saunders gives a presentation on Indigenous art and culture to Lockwood Primary School students at the Bendigo Art Gallery in 2016. Picture: Chris Pedler
Damian Saunders gives a presentation on Indigenous art and culture to Lockwood Primary School students at the Bendigo Art Gallery in 2016. Picture: Chris Pedler

GIVING Indigenous artists more space to create and display art will help to improve the understanding of Bendigo’s Indigenous pre-colonial history, the council’s new arts and creative industries strategy argues.

The draft strategy – titled Greater Creative Bendigo – recognises the public has minimal understanding of the role Dja Dja Wurrung and Tuangurung people played as custodians of the region’s land for thousands of years.

The strategy recommends a range of measures to improve understanding of the importance of Indigenous cultural and creative practices in the community.

It recommends the council create two full-time roles for Indigenous-identified people – one to develop Indigenous art and creative industries, and another to drive tourism opportunities using First Nations culture.

It suggested ongoing roles were needed to find more space to celebrate Indigenous creative culture.

“We need to listen and learn more from our First Nations’ people about what they want to see in our creative landscape, respect culture and elevate it to the position it deserves,” it reads.

“There will be culturally safe spaces of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and places where people from diverse backgrounds will feel welcome.

“We have limited spaces and resources that celebrate our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and our local creative people.”

The City of Greater Bendigo last year received a grant of $50,000 to appoint a First Nations curator at the Bendigo Art Gallery, but that role could finish when the funding runs out.

Rodney Carter says South East Australia had unique forms of Indigenous art that are yet to be properly recognised and promoted. Picture: NONI HYETT

Rodney Carter says South East Australia had unique forms of Indigenous art that are yet to be properly recognised and promoted. Picture: NONI HYETT

Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Rodney Carter the region’s Indigenous people had art styles that were unique to other parts of Australia, including more European-style line art and diamond patterns.

He said it was a challenge to make Indigenous art accessible and interesting to the wider community, but there were opportunities to highlight the unique aspects of South East Australian art.

“One challenge is finding the space to make this possible. Galleries are large, reflective spaces so there is the challenge to make sure they do not become too cluttered with artwork,” Mr Carter said.

“It’s a good opportunity. South East Australian art doesn’t get properly explored.”

The timeframe for establishing the two full-time roles were set at one-year and four years respectively.

Other ideas identified in the draft strategy include appointing a full-time Public Art Officer, funding the proposed creative industries grants program, using vacant shops and public foyers to promote art, and work with Music Victoria to develop the city’s contemporary music sector.

The draft strategy is available for public comment until September 5.

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