Murri Girls Into Art showcases the work of a group of Central Queensland women as they journey to health and healing through their arts practice. For the past few years, the women have come together weekly to create vibrant artworks whilst telling stories and learning together, sharing their problems, fun and laughter. An exhibition at the Rockhampton Art Gallery recently shared the story of a group of women, their courage and resilience, but also how the healing power of art can connect a community. The group is being supported by Creative Capricorn, a partnership between Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Queensland and Rockhampton Regional Council.
Over three years the pilot program will grow with a locally owned and produced arts and cultural program at its heart. NSF Consulting is monitoring and evaluating Creative Capricorn over its pilot period and beyond.
About five years ago, I was working for a disability employment agency in Rockhampton. There were a number of Aboriginal women on my caseload; the majority of them had depression, a lot weren’t showing up to their appointments. They would quite often get cut off from Centrelink for their payments. That would impound on their situation. I asked them all if they would like to go out to lunch with me once a fortnight, I could even picked them up. They said yes.
So, I got a group of ladies together, we went out to lunch once a fortnight and I just go to know them. They started to build up trust… in me. We became good friends, all of us. But at the same time I would find out where they up to as far as finding employment. And what was going on in their lives. Quite a few of them were bringing sketch pads along and paints. And then after lunch they would start drawing or painting. Conversations developed around that and they decided that they wanted to study together.
All of these women attended TAFE for about two years doing Japanese fabric and folding and dyeing of silk. In that time quite a few of them decided to do a Cert IV in Business. One did a Diploma of Business because at that stage they decided that they wanted to become a company.
We met Rod Ainsworth from Creative Capricorn. He said he would probably be able to get us some funding to have an art exhibition. Arts Qld generously donated $30,000 towards having a very significant exhibition at the Rockhampton Art Gallery. The exhibition was attended by 2273 people. A number of pieces of work were sold. Creative Capricorn have helped us being helping us into the direction of showing our work on a grand scale. That would not have happened otherwise, it would have been a slower process of trying to become more known in the community.
There are many benefits to the broader community: it not only inspires other women to go ahead and do something very similar. For the women in the group it has built up self-confidence, helped them to heal and keep their mind off other more serious things going on in their lives, health-wise. It’s producing some very beautiful artwork. It is a healing circle.
“I found it very good for me because there was nothing in Rocky where I could go to to talk. Whoever does the artwork, it seems to come from their soul. I just think it’s beautiful. This group is really good because we are a healing circle and each one of us over the last five or six years has helped each other.” Beres Austin.
“We sort of escape our problems at home and we can bring them here. They help us, they’re all friends. You can say anything. And while we’re doing it we’re doing beautiful artwork.” Yvonne Payne.
The group is looking at the possibility of displaying their work at other galleries in Central Queensland. It is also planning to hold silk dyeing workshops from a mobile van at various location around the region. These professional development outcomes have been unintentional. Combined with the health and healing outcomes, they provide a tangible example of how the arts can be powerful in addressing social issues in regional Australia.
Murri Girls Into Art Exhibition, Rockhampton Art Gallery,
13 July-18 August 2013.
This photo + opening photo: