Koorie Heritage Trust / NGV Australia / State Library Victoria
Koorie Art and Artefacts
Koorie makers of art and artefacts draw upon rich and ancient cultural traditions. There are 38 Aboriginal Language Groups in Victoria, each with unique traditions and stories. These unique traditions include the use of geometric line or free flowing curving lines in designs.
This selection of artworks and objects has been chosen from artworks made across the range of pre-contact, mission era and contemporary times and reflects the richness and diverse voices of Koorie Communities. It showcases prehistoric stone tools, works by 19th century artists William Barak and Tommy McRae right through to artworks made in the last few years by leading and emerging Aboriginal artists in Victoria.
The majority of the items here have been selected from the extensive and significant collections at the Koorie Heritage Trust in Melbourne. The Trust’s collections are unique as they concentrate solely on the Aboriginal culture of south-eastern Australia (primarily Victoria). Over 100,000 items are held in trust for current and future generations of Koorie people and provide a tangible link, connecting Community to the past.
Within the vibrant Koorie Community, artists choose their own ways of expressing identity, cultural knowledge and inspiration. In a number of short films Uncle Wally Cooper, Aunty Linda Turner and Aunty Connie Hart practice a range of traditional techniques and skills. These short documentaries show the strength of Koorie culture today and the connection with past traditions experienced by contemporary Koorie artists.
Taungurung artist Mick Harding draws upon knowledge from his Country about deberer, the bogong moth: "The long zigzag lines represent the wind currents that deberer fly on and the gentle wavy lines inside deberer demonstrate their ability to use those winds to fly hundreds of kilometres to our country every year."
Koorie artists today also draw inspiration from the complex and changing society we are all part of. Commenting on his artwork End of Innocence, Wiradjuri/Ngarigo artist Peter Waples-Crowe explains: "I went on a trip to Asia early in the year and as I wandered around Thailand and Hong Kong I started to think about Aboriginality in a global perspective. This series of works are a response to feeling overwhelmed by globalisation, consumerism and celebrity."
Koorie culture is strong, alive and continues to grow.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that this material may contain images and voices of deceased persons, and images of places that could cause sorrow.
John Teasdale – Chronicle of a Country Life
These little films from Victoria's Western Plains are about the actual and the everyday.
They have no hint of sensationalism in them. They are plain and utterly honest. They tell us about tractors and farming machinery. About fire and flood and snow. We glimpse Anzac Day and are touched by the irony of people remembering in a time and place few people remember or think about today. But there is no sentimentality in these films either. They are just plain good. - Martin Flanagan.
John Teasdale (1936 – 2004) was a farmer at Rupanyup in the Victorian Wimmera. He was also a keen and highly accomplished cinematographer, filming consistently for over 50 years to create a long-term record of working life on a family farm and of community life in a particular part of rural Victoria.
When television arrived in Australia in 1956, John successfully applied to the ABC to become a 'stringer' cameraman, shooting regional footage that was frequently included in state-wide news broadcasts and in segments produced particularly for regional viewers. John continued in this role for thirty years, until changing technology eventually made the role of 'regional stringers' obsolete.
The Teasdale film collection constitutes a nationally significant record of working and community life in a small Australian dry-land farming community, reflecting enormous changes in farming practices as well as transformations in the character and scale of community life in and around Rupanyup. At a time when many dry-land farming communities are actively reinventing themselves as their underlying social and economic structures change dramatically, John Teasdale’s films provide a critical point of reference and affirmation.
Artist and filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon, with the support of John Teasdale’s family, is undertaking ongoing work to interpret and celebrate this rich and resonant archive.
From the nuclear to the extended family, from groups of close friends, communities and neighbourhoods, to one on one relationships: family means many different things to different people.
Family describes our most cherished, and sometimes most difficult, relationships. In this collection of digital stories and videos, Victorians share their family stories.
Family stories include stories of immigration; disadvantage and survival, indigenous life, stories of sickness and health; life and death; childhood and old age.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that some of the videos in this story may contain images of deceased persons and images of places that could cause sorrow.
Illuminated by Fire
These short films, created for the Illuminated By Fire project by Malcolm McKinnon, tell a range of stories about living in some of the most fire-prone places on the planet.
They reveal a wealth of knowledge, experience and imagination in our response to fire.
The Illuminated By Fire project is about the places we care about and the story and role of fire within those places.
Burke and Wills: Have Camels Will Travel
Dromedary camels were introduced to Australia in 1840. The first significant shipment, however, was made to service the Burke and Wills expedition, which was the first exploring party to use camels, as well as horses, for transporting supplies.
In 1858, George Landells, who had worked as a horse trader in India, wrote to the Victorian Government explaining how the camel was ideally suited to the Australian landscape. He offered to travel to India and purchase camels on behalf of the Victorian government for use in exploration, and as the basis of a breeding stud. The government’s Board of Science and Zoological Gardens Committee agreed that the camel would be useful on the Australian continent, and Landells was authorised to borrow money from the Indian Government and make the purchase.
Landells traveled through India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to source the animals, engaging eight camel drivers to assist him on the journey from Karachi to Melbourne in December 1859, arriving mid-June 1860.
He was hailed for his travels through the ‘very unsettled’ lands by the English Scindian Newspaper, and similarly lauded in Melbourne where the ‘exotic’ animals caused a sensation, as did their handlers, identified variously as Indians, Sepoys, and Malays.
Partly in response to his fame, Landells was appointed second in command of the Burke and Wills expedition. He was also appointed officer in charge of the camels.
Landells recruited John Drakeford and John King, who had helped him bring the animals from Karachi to Melbourne, and four of the eight handlers: Samla (described by Becker as a Hindu), Dost Mahomet (or Botan), from Guznee; Esau Khan (or Hissand or Isaah), Belooch, who came from Mahadpoor in the Punjab, and another man from Kelat.
The expedition party departed Melbourne with 26 camels. As the expedition progressed, Landells and Burke disagreed over their treatment and Landells resigned in Menindee.
Four of the 26 camels were left at Menindee. Dost Mahomet stayed with 16 at the Coopers Creek depot. Burke and Wills took six animals with them on their trek to the Gulf and John King, travelled with them, to care for. Some of the animals strayed or were lost, others were abandoned. Burke, Wills, Charlie Gray and John King ate the last of them, as they struggled back from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
However the Burke and Wills Expedition was not the end of the story. Camels had proved their worth in negotiating the harsh and dry Australian interior and camels became an increasingly important form of transport in the Australian inland. Between 1870 and 1900, over 15,000 camels and 2000 cameleers were brought to Australia. The cameleers were commonly known as “Afghans” although small in number, they made a vital contribution to Australia’s exploration and development.
Feral camels now roam across outback Australia. In response, markets for live camels and camel meat have developed. It is more than likely that the descendents of Landells’ camels are among those that now roam the Australian continent.
Making Do on ‘the Susso’: The material culture of the Great Depression
There are currently 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans. The demands on renewable sources like timber, clean water and soil are so great they are now being used at almost twice the rate that the earth can replenish them. Finite resources like fossil fuel are consumed at an alarming rate, changing the earth’s climate and pushing animal species to the brink of extinction. Current patterns of consumption are exceeding the capacity of the earth’s ability to provide into the future.
All over the world, environmental movements concerned with sustainability have sprung up in response. Conscious consumers are advocating for their right to repair their own electronic devices, fighting a culture of planned obsolesce and disposability. Others are championing the repair, reuse and recycling of clothing and household goods to extend their lives. Reducing waste in the kitchen and promoting food options with lower environmental impact has become increasingly popular.
Climate change may be a uniquely twenty-first century challenge, but sustainability has a history. In 2021 many people are making a conscious choice to embrace anti-consumerism, but during the Great Depression of the 1930s it was necessity that drove a philosophy of mend and make do.
In 1929 stock markets crashed and sent economies around the western world into free fall, triggering the Great Depression. Australia’s economic dependence on wool and wheat exports meant that it was one of the worst affected countries in the world. The impact of the Depression on the everyday lives of Australians was immense. Not everyone was effected with the same severity, but few escaped the poverty and austerity of the years 1929-1933 unscathed.
At the height of the Depression in 1932 Australia had an unemployment rate of 29%, and thousands of desperate people around the country queued for the dole. Aboriginal Australians were not eligible for the dole, and had to rely solely on government issued rations.
Isaac Douglas Hermann & Heather Arnold
Carlo Catani: An engineering star over Victoria
After more than forty-one years of public service that never ended with his retirement, through surveying and direct design, contracting, supervision, and collaborative approaches, perhaps more than any other single figure, Carlo Catani re-scaped not only parts of Melbourne, but extensive swathes of Victoria ‘from Portland to Mallacoota’, opening up swamplands to farming, bringing access to beauty spots, establishing new townships, and the roads to get us there.
Victorians & Native Birds: An evolving relationship
The people of Victoria have had a constantly changing relationship with their native birdlife.
Ever-present and iconic, we’ve put Australian birds on official state heraldry and on tomato sauce bottles and biscuit packets. There has always been an immense fondness and respect for our unique birds. However, attitudes towards wildlife generally and birds specifically have undergone seismic paradigm shifts over the last few hundred years.
Looking at objects catalogued here on Victorian Collections, we can map this change and trace the ways that Victorians have interacted with birds, from Indigenous spirituality to citizen science programs.
Mapping Great Change
This series of films and stories is centred on a beautiful and complex map with the ungainly name: Plan of the General Survey from the Town of Malmsbury to the Porcupine Inn, from the sources of Forest Creek to Golden Point, shewing the Alexandrian Range, also Sawpit Gully, Bendigo and Bullock Creeks.
In many ways, the map is a mirror of our times: the map is a record of the 'critical years' between 1835 and 1852 in which the dispossession of Aboriginal people of Victoria was allowed to occur; we contemporary people are in the "critical decade" for making the changes necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
If we fail to act effectively in this decade, it will be as loaded with moral and practical consequences for coming generations as the moral and policy failures of our colonial ancestors was for the Traditional Owners of the land.
Tallangatta: The town that moved
Every now and then, when the Hume Dam is at a low ebb, the ghostly remains of old Tallangatta, in northern Victoria, can be seen above the water. Now located 39 kilometres east of Wodonga, Tallangatta is known as 'the town that moved'.
In 1956, 2 hotels, 4 petrol stations, numerous shops and businesses, 4 churches, more than 900 residents and all the usual public amenities of a country town were relocated 8 kilometres west of the old site. The original location was then flooded under 6 feet of water after the Hume Dam was expanded.
During 1954 the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission took more than 180 photos in and around the town, documenting houses, businesses and facilities before they were moved. Other images capture the remarkable feat of transporting the buildings to the new site, such as a weatherboard house being carefully towed toward a narrow bridge. Many photos give a vivid picture of the commercial centre of a small country town in the mid-1950s. Advertising signs promote Sennitts Icecream and The Argus newspaper, cluttered shops are packed to the gunnels with equipment and staples for small town life before large chain stores, supermarkets and cars changed country towns forever.
The shops and houses are distributed along straight Towong Street. Cars were scarce and bicycles were an important form of transport in the wide and mostly empty streets. Men and women in the 2 hotels were still segregated in the ladies lounge and main bar; and the hotel’s kitchen equipment was basic. The town offered butchers, barbers, and hairdressers, while the garages, plumbers, and hardware stores served both town and farming needs.
The Tallangatta photographs are part of The Rural Water Corporation Collection of more than 50,000 photographs held at The State Library of Victoria. This collection covers a range of water management projects and activities during the first half of the 20th century.
Sip, Slurp, Gulp! Tea Mania
From the tranquillity and purity of Japanese Tea Ceremony (Sado) to the hospitality and friendship represented in Moroccan tea traditions, enjoying tea is a much loved and revered ritual practiced around the globe.
Tea Mania traces the history of tea and reflects on the distinctive Australian flavour of tea consumption as it intertwines with global politics, economics and the rise of consumerism.
In 1956, a monster flood overwhelmed the banks of the Murray and Darling Rivers, producing floodwaters in surrounding towns and rural areas that reached over 30 feet above normal levels.
The Murray Darling Environmental Foundation's 1956 Flood video features historical footage - including photographs and wonderful super8 film from personal collections - that document the rise and flow of the waters, and the monumental effort mobilised to tackle them.
It is presented here in 3 extracts.
The full video is over 25 minutes long, and copies can be obtained from:
Emma Bradbury, Murray Darling Association, Post Office Box 1268, Echuca 3564
Email: [email protected]
Amanda Ahmed and Mali Moir
An Eye for Eucalypts
In his hometown of Ararat, Stan Kelly (1911 – 2001) was known as an engine driver and as a talented painter of plants and flowers. A determined amateur, Stan painted at home on a small table and shared his talent by teaching botanical art in Ararat. Today, many Australians travelling overseas carry his artwork in their pocket.
Kelly is now recognised as one of Australia’s premier botanical illustrators, especially respected for his works on eucalypts. His first book, Australian Eucalypts in Colour, was published in 1949. His most celebrated work, Eucalypts Volumes I & II, was first published in 1969 and became a core reference for students of Australian botany.
Kelly received an Order of Australia Medal in 1980. In 2009, he was posthumously honoured when a selection of his botanical illustrations was adapted for the ‘N’ series Australian passport.
The Langi Morgala Museum in Ararat houses a permanent exhibit on Stan Kelly and his work, including a fine collection of his paintings.
A collection of over 500 of Kelly’s watercolour paintings is held by the National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
But That's Another Story
This innovative collaboration between community museums and local artists captures the unique living memories and rich cultural heritage of communities along the Murray River between Wodonga and Corryong.
Seven short films were created as part of the project:
Nox-All Rabbits: How do you deal with a plague of rabbits? With Nox-All. Rabbiting was a way of life in Victoria, especially during the plague of 1932. Rabbits were a source of food and income (the felt from their pelts used in Akubra hats), and thought by some to be "better than chickens".
Jim Simpson's knitted war trophy: During World War II Jim Simpson's aircraft was shot down over Germany and he became a prisoner of war at Stalag IVB. Jim's ingenuity helped to keep prisoners warm, and ultimately resulted in an extraordinary memorial.
Old time music in the blood: Nariel Creek residents have music in the blood, so much so that they've been told their accordion style is special, using all four fingers at once. The Nariel old time style of Australian traditional music and dance continues with the Nariel Creek Folk Festival.
A history of engine power: Watch out... refurbishing engines can become an addiction. The gem of this collection of over 150 engines is an 1866 Ransom Sims engine, one of only 5 in the world, which has been lovingly restored.
The Saleyards Made Wodonga: Cattle were one of the biggest industries in Wodonga, and the saleyards a focal point town, not least because plum pudding was served in the luncheon room all year round.
The Icon of Wodonga: You need more than a trickle of water to fight a fire. The Wodonga water tower was welcomed as it brought the 'luxury' of water to town, and when it was decommissioned the community rallied to prevent its demolition.
The Saw Doctor's Wagon: The 'Sharpening King' and his family travelled throughout eastern Australia sharpening knives in their 'road urchin'. A circus-like wagon, the urchin was first pulled by horses, then a Chevron truck, and finally, by a David Brown tractor.
Participating museums: Granya Pioneer Museum, Man From Snowy River Museum, Tallangatta & District Heritage Group, Wodonga Historical Society.
Supported by: the Commonwealth Government’s Regional Arts Fund, Regional Arts Victoria, National Museum of Australia, City of Wodonga, Shire of Towong, Museums Australia (Vic) and Arts Victoria. Auspice organisation: Murray Arts
Jary Nemo and Lucinda Horrocks
Collections & Climate Change
The world is changing. Change is a natural part of the Earth’s cycle and of the things that live on it, but what we are seeing now is both like and unlike the shifts we have seen before.
Anthropogenic change, meaning change created by humans, is having an impact on a global scale. In particular, human activity has altered the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the world’s climate to change.
Already in the state of Victoria we are seeing evidence of this change around us. In the natural world, coastal waters are warming and bringing tropical marine species to our bays. Desert animals are migrating to Victoria. Alpine winters are changing, potentially putting plants and animals at risk of starvation and pushing species closer to the margins. In the world of humans, island and coastal dwellers deal with the tangible and intangible impacts of loss as sea levels rise, bush dwellers live with an increased risk of life-threatening fires, farmers cope with the new normal of longer droughts, and we all face extreme weather events and the impacts of social and economic change.
This Collections and Climate Change digital story explores how Victoria’s scientific and cultural collections help us understand climate change. It focuses on three Victorian institutions - Museums Victoria, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Parks Victoria. It looks at how the information gathered and maintained by a dedicated community of researchers, curators, scientists, specialists and volunteers can help us understand and prepare for a hotter, drier, more inundated world.
The story is made up of a short documentary film and twenty-one examples highlighting how botanical records, geological and biological specimens and living flora and fauna provide a crucial resource for scientists striving to map continuity, variability and change in the natural world. And it helps us rethink the significance of some of Victoria’s cultural collections in the face of a changing climate.
Collecting Fire: A new kind of practice
The fires of February 2009 left an indelible mark on the histories of Victoria’s community collecting organisations; whether through blackened ash markings or by the absence of once cherished objects and ephemera.
This exploration of Victoria’s collecting response to the Black Saturday bushfires is inspired by Liza Dale‐Hallett, Rebecca Carland and Peg Fraser’s reflections on the Victorian Bushfires Collection project, in 'Sites of Trauma: Contemporary Collecting and Natural Disaster'.