Indigenous artists showcase historical railway stories in Dubbo
Themes of transport through western NSW and stories of Stolen Generations children being taken away on trains have been explored in a series of Aboriginal artworks commissioned for a new rail maintenance centre being built in Dubbo.
The commissioned collection of artworks by three local Aboriginal artists received large praise from a public viewing that was held at the Western Plains Cultural Centre.
Soon the artwork will be housed permanently at the Mindyarra Maintenance Centre which is under construction and will service the state’s new Regional Rail fleet.
The artworks include interpretation of transport related stories that have been gathered from local Wiradjuri Elders and community.
The artists are Wiradjuri woman Teresa Yasserie, Worimi man Kirk Watts, and Muruwari, Kunja and Wiradjuri man, Robert Salt.
They were selected to harness their physical and spiritual connection to Country to develop visual pieces that tell stories and memories of regional railways, and the complex role rail has played in the lives of many Aboriginal people.
Dubbo local Teresa Yasserie said her work is based on the historical removal and transportation of Stolen Generations children in the 1950s and 60s.
“Aboriginal Elders talk about the children that were taken but they also talked about their childhood stories of living in tents beside the rail lines in the bush as their dads worked on the railway,” Ms Yasserie said.
Dubbo-based artist Kirk Watts said he was able to combine his formal training in the Western style with traditional patterning to show the symbolic layering of histories and cultures.
“My discussions with the community highlighted the importance of railway jobs for many Aboriginal men, and the strong interaction ‘railway families’ built with each other in rail camps and work sites,” Mr Watts said.
Artist Robert Salt, who has lived and worked in Dubbo for many years, said his work also aims to remind the viewer that the story of rail is an integral part of a shared history.
“This land has a longer history than most can imagine. The links to the narrative of rail runs deep within the soil and rock on which it was built,” Mr Salt said.
“Trains have had an interesting history with Aboriginal people in western New South Wales. There are a lot of mixed emotions, including some of sadness.
“People may not be aware that a lot of Aboriginal kids were removed from family and country on trains from the outback and taken away. But there are happier emotions connected to the transport system – I remember growing up in Brewarrina and playing as kids at the train station.
“I remember catching the XPT to Sydney to see loved ones and get access to services – a lot of fond memories. I wanted to focus on the positive aspects in the artwork,” he said.
More information on the Mindyarra Maintenance Centre can be found here.