Aboriginal portraits from Yuin country on show in Tilba from Saturday

"So you want to know what I know?" portrait of Glen Namundga by Vickie McCredie.
“So you want to know what I know?” portrait of Glen Namundga by Vickie McCredie.

A series of portraits spanning the length and breadth of the Yuin Nation are about to go on show and be auctioned, the end result will be a cross-cultural walkabout for Australia’s indigenous people centered on South East NSW.

The nineteen faces that smile, stare and sing from the canvases painted by Towamba artist Vickie McCreedie, take in territory that includes Wollongong, Wallaga Lake, Eden, and Delegate.

Vickie describes the build-up to this exhibition as an adventure that started in the remote Aboriginal community of Gunbalanya in Arnhem Land in 2016.

“I was really whelmed by the generosity, I saw a community that seemed to work and function, they welcomed the public, we had a look over their dreaming site, I had a great time,” Vickie remembers.

“I was on the buses all the time up there, I would get on the bus and people were speaking in language, I thought wow – this all just seems to work, and I had not experienced that before.”

"High Tide at Mystery Bay" portrait of Warren Foster by Vickie McCredie.
“High Tide at Mystery Bay” portrait of Warren Foster by Vickie McCredie.

During her visit, Vickie, who does not come from Aboriginal heritage, took a photo of one of Arnhem Land’s most respected artists, Glen Namundga. Despite never painting portraits before, upon her return to Towamba, west of Eden on the NSW Far South Coast, Vickie felt compelled to put Glen’s image on canvas.

“Look at his hand, he threw something at me and I caught it,” Vickie says.

“He’s mesmerising, he’s very special, he’s the real deal and a very traditional man.”

Glen has given Vickie permission to enter his portrait in the rich Shirley Hannen National Portrait Prize later this year at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

However, a new artistic endeavour has been born out of this interaction, one that Vickie hopes will build connections and learnings between local Aboriginal people and communities like Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory.

“How wonderful it would be if young people from where I live had the opportunity to have an experience like the one I had at Gunbalanya, and one that also allowed a person from another community to come, visit, and learn here.”

The first of these modern day walkabouts or cross-cultural exchanges is underway with Pambula’s Nathan Lygon approved to spend time at Maningrida in the Northern Territory later this year.

Saturday’s (March 24) auction at the Apma Creations Gallery at Central Tilba is part fundraiser for Nathan and part fundraiser for future exchanges.

"Mez -Mother and Keeper" portrait of Merryn Apma by Vickie McCredie.
“Mez -Mother and Keeper” portrait of Merryn Apma by Vickie McCredie.

From painting Glen Namundga’s portrait, Vickie was led to paint Wallaga Lake warrior Warren Foster and the “You’N Me Family Portraits” project was born.

“Warren showed me his family’s fish traps at Mystery Bay. He chose the headland for the location of his portrait, it shows the warrior standing above the bay with the sacred island Baranguba just visible on the horizon,” Vickies says.

From Warren’s portrait, a series of others have followed capturing the diversity that lives within the Yuin Nation.

The way Vickie tells the story suggests a higher power at play, a series of serendipitous meetings where one person’s portrait leads to the next.

“I went to the Tilba Festival in 2016 to watch Warren’s dance troupe, and I met Merryn Apma.”

“The idea for the Yuin family portraits was forming; when she said yes to having her portrait painted and said – “I am having the exhibition’, the family began to come out of their hiding places,” Vickie says.

"Yorta Yorta Tall Man" portrait of Glen Atkinson by Vickie McCredie.
“Yorta Yorta Tall Man” portrait of Glen Atkinson by Vickie McCredie.

Glen Atkinson was one of the next to follow.

“Glen tried hard not to let me have his eyes, but somehow he acquiesced for a moment.”

“These subtle connections strengthened with each portrait I painted. Through each painting I was in communication with the person,” Vickie reflects.

“The softness of Glen’s generous heart is so obvious to me in the turtles who bound to him.

“The resilience, the toughness, and the strength are all shown in their shells.”

Vickie says when she showed Glen his portrait he did not speak and was deeply moved.

The presence of nature in each painting is significant, with each animal, fish, or flower representing the subject’s totem.

“Some of these people are unaware of their totem, and they have chosen a totem, something from the earth they feel very connected to.”

“Like Dougie Thompson from Delegate, he has a tattoo of an eagle but feels very connected to the echidna.

“His eagles express freedom, vision, and strength. The echidnas possess a quicky humour, maybe even spiky humour, perhaps the qualities of Dougie himself,” Vickie says.

"The Quiet Man" portrait of Douglas Thompson by Vickie McCredie.
“The Quiet Man” portrait of Douglas Thompson by Vickie McCredie.

As the first person to head off on this modern walkabout, Nathan Lygon says he is going with an open mind and without too many plans, ready to see what comes from his time in the Northern Territory.

“It sounds like there is going to be an opportunity for me to work in the schools there, on some of their language and cultural programs,” Nathan says.

It’s an experience Nathan will bring back to his own indigenous teaching work in Bega Valley schools like Towamba Public.

The principal out at Towamba has been a great support. Glenn Dinwoodie used to work in the school out at Maningrida, so he had connections, he’s put in a lot of work,” Nathan says.

With the support of the Mumbulla Foundation, the You’N Me Family Portraits exhibition opens on Saturday (March 24) at 4 pm and runs until April 6 at the Apma Creations Gallery on Corkhill Drive Central Tilba. The fundraising auction will start at 6:30 on Saturday night (March 24).

 Vickie McCredie and Nathan Lygon. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Vickie McCredie and Nathan Lygon. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“I am someone who has lived many lives,” Vickie says.

“And Indigenous people have an aspect of reincarnation in their culture as well, these are not random connections for me, on some level I know each one of these people, they have reconnected with me whilst I am painting them.”

Vickie can’t wait to have all her subjects in the one room on opening night, to see what other connections will be rediscovered by the group.

At the very least, all are connected by the country they live on, each of the nineteen people has a different surname but are all living in the Yuin Nation, and family in that sense of being part of the one community.

For others, the portraits might challenge your perception of what an Aboriginal person looks like. These faces remind us of the different colours, history, and talent that exist in any race of people, a diversity that brings strength, joy, and pride.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Sideshow clowns open door to grassroots democracy at your local show

Sideshow Clowns at the Bega Show. Photo: Kate Howarth, Bega Show Society.
Sideshow Clowns at the Bega Show. Photo: Kate Howarth, Bega Show Society.

Politics is part of every country show. There is the tongue-in-cheek variety between Jersey and Friesian dairy farmers, between sheep and goat graziers, and between dressage horses and motorbike clubs, but room is always made for the “more serious” variety, the politics that normally takes place in a parliament house or council chamber.

In fact, country shows provide one of the few unfiltered opportunities to speak directly to our leaders.

January, February, March is show season in South East New South Wales and has been for 145 years, from Moruya Show to Bega and Cooma, the region’s politicians make a point of attending, an army of party faithful at their side with marques and billboards marked in party colours and slogans.

The Bega Show last weekend offered some respite for the region’s federal representatives, who seemed happy to be free of Canberra and were looking forward to a week were their own sex lives were a talking point.

“It was like a bowl of sweet and sour Chinese,” Labor’s Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro says.

“On one hand we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations, and on the other we had the other business [Barnaby Joyce affair] going on,” Dr Kelly says.

The Turnbull Government was represented at the show by new NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan, who has just completed his first two-week parliamentary sitting.

Dr Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Dr Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Senator Molan has been described as the Stephen Bradbury of politics. Listed as the seventh candidate on the NSW Coalition Senate ticket at the last election, the former Army General finds himself in parliament as a result of the Section 44 citizenship saga that claimed Nationals Senator Fiona Nash.

Like Dr Kelly, Mr Molan did not want to offer direct comment on the Barnaby Joyce affair or his own recent brush with the media where he was criticised for sharing a Facebook post from the far-right group Britain First.

“What may surprise everyone is that the Government is getting on and doing its job,” Mr Molan says.

“For example, the Minister for Veterans Affairs introduced a Bill last week which he called Veteran Centric Reform,” Mr Molan says.

The Government’s Veterans Affairs website says, “Veteran Centric Reform [is] to provide the veteran community with a greater standard of service through reform of business processes and culture.”

Reflecting on the work of parliament and other matters that might have been missed in the buzz around Barnaby, Dr Kelly points to the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Last week, the Committee handed down its Review of the listing of Islamic State Khorasan Province and the re-listing of al-Murabitun as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code.

In a nutshell, their report concluded: “Islamic State Khorasan Province and al-Murabitun continue to meet the definition of a terrorist organisation.”

Perhaps not a front-of-mind issue for showgoers over the weekend, but Dr Kelly who sits on the Committee insists that it demonstrates that politics is more than the scandal and combat we see presented in the media.

“It’s [the Joint Committee] a very bipartisan mechanism, we really do focus on the interests of the country, keeping our people safe and defeating terrorists. There is no politics there,” he says.

The red of the Labor tent sat side by side with the blue of the Liberal tent over the three days of the Bega Show.

Often the different party members could be seen standing on neutral ground discussing the issues of the day or their show winning dahlias.

Passers-by were invited to raise concerns and issues, offer a view on parliament’s current agenda, or find out what’s going on for themselves.

“That’s what we are here for,” Dr Kelly says.

“Sometimes it’s good for people to just get things off their chest, I’ve learned as a Member there’s a lot of therapy you can provide by just being a decent listener.”

This grassroots demonstration of our democracy survives in a political landscape that thrives on extremes and conflict, and one that highlights difference rather than similarity. It’s a style of politics that sits comfortably alongside the giant pumpkins, decorated Arrowroots, and chainsaw racing of the show.

“And I am only new, I am not across the local issues, I am here to learn,” Senator Molan says.

Senator Jim Molan. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Senator Jim Molan. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Show season rolls on this weekend with the Canberra Show, followed by Delegate, Dalgety, Cooma, and Bemboka on March 11.

Head along not just for the sideshow clowns or a pony ride, but ready to see your local politician – the invitation is there to talk to them.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

Historic Bombala school given a future as part of the community

Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell
Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell

Plans are underway to turn the Bombala Infants School into a place of learning again, with a safety net in place guaranteeing a positive outcome for the community.

Locals were taken by surprise when an auction sign went up on the school’s fence back in June.

The site overlooking the town first opened as a place of learning in 1863. James Poulton, the school’s first teacher had 75 kids to mark off his role on day one.

As an aside, school fees amounted to ninepence per week for the two eldest children in each family and sixpence per week for each additional child.

Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell
Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell

In the mid-1990’s the school was closed and childhood education in Bombala consolidated on the Bombala High School site.

TAFE moved into the space for a period of time offering a range of vocational and special interest subjects, however changes within TAFE and the opening of the Trade Training Centre at Bombala High took momentum and opportunities away from the historic site.

With the State-owned building empty and unused its future was put out to the market, swift community action halted the sale with the Member for Monaro, Nationals Leader, and Deputy Premier John Barilaro gifting the building to Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell
Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell

The group that formed to stop the sale is now looking at its next step and a new chapter in the buildings 144-year-old story.

Sue Haslingden from the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee says with the new Council in place it’s time to get going.

“My three children went to school here, a lot of families have incredible ties with this beautiful old building, ” Sue says.

Sue is a former Bombala Shire councilor and has just been elected to the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, she also remembers taking part in art and photography classes at the old school under TAFE.

“Once the art classes stopped we just found rooms here there and everywhere and applied for arts funding to bring instructors in a few times a year,” Sue says.

“We approached TAFE about using this space, but it would have been at a commercial hire rate, so it just wasn’t viable for us.”

Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell

A resumption of arts and cultural activities is seen as part of the old school’s future.

“Over the years we’ve lost Ando Public School, Bibbenluke has just gone, this building is such a part of Bombala,” Sue says.

“This building was put here by the community, the building itself was funded through fundraising and back in the early days even the teacher was funded by community efforts.”

The thought of the building being sold and the proceeds deposited into the combined TAFE coffers was a ‘red flag to the community’ Sue says.

“It was a real concern that the money from the sale wouldn’t be turned back into our community,” she explains.

The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell
The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell

With a business plan already in place through the gifting arrangements between State and Local Government,  the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee is now waiting to get the keys and put the plan into action.

“We would like to see this place as the home of a local progress association, as a place for tourist and cultural events, and as a community meeting place for a range of interests and groups,” Sue says.

Appointing a project officer to activate and manage the space is one of the first steps to drive the idea forward.

“The town needs a place for a range of groups to call home, this will be a hub for the Bombala community,” Sue says.

An exit clause has been negotiated that guarantees funds from any future sale of the building would be returned to Bombala.

“So if our business plan doesn’t work, and we find we can’t maintain it or it’s not viable, in three years time we can sell it and the money stays in the community,” Sue says.

With plans for an opening event growing, Sue says, “Watch this space!”

Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell
Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell

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Making an informed choice for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day for Snowy Monaro Regional Council is this Saturday – September 9.  Photo credit: AEC

A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.

Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.

But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.

You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.

“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.

With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.

Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.

The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.

Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.

“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.

Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.

“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.

The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.

“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We had a really shocking time during the drought.

The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a 'meet the candidates' forum on September 4.
The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a ‘meet the candidates’ forum on September 4.

“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.

“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.

Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.

“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.

“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.

“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.

Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.

“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.

“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”

Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.

“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.

Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.


*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.

*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley. 




Calling candidates for Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council. Source: SMRC

The wheels of democracy are starting to spin again across the High Country with nominations now open for candidates at the September 9 Local Council Election.

Eleven councilors will sit in the chamber of the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which has been run for the past 15 months by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

In his role as Administrator, Mr Lynch called on the advice and input of Local Representative Committees covering the former shires of Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro, and Bombala.

Ultimately though final decisions fell to Mr Lynch, an arrangement put in place by the NSW Government and one many have described as undemocratic.

Mr Lynch, who says he won’t be standing on September 9 says he understands the criticism but has enjoyed the opportunity despite feeling burnt out.

He says the whole merger process has got people thinking more about local government and perhaps has inspired some locals to stand for election.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new faces,” Mr Lynch says.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close at Midday on Wednesday, August 9 through the Electoral Commission on NSW.

In the lead-up, Snowy Monaro Regional Council held candidate info sessions in Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala.

Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.

“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.

“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”

Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.

“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.

“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.

Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.

“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.

“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.

And once you are elected what is the job of a new councilor on Snowy Monaro Regional Council?

Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.

“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.

“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC

The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.

Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.

“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.

“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”

But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.

“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.

“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.

“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.

Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.

“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.

Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.

“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”

“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.

Thanks to About Regional Members, Simon Marnie, Alison Oakley, Linda Albertson, and Kiah Wilderness Tours for supporting local story telling.