Confronting history

• Curator Sharon Tassicker. Photo by David Bell

TUCKED away in West Perth’s warehouse district is a confronting art collection examining Australia’s wellbeing – and it’s not a pretty picture.

The exhibition at the Holmes à Court Gallery is called Australiyaniality, with the word “liyan” taken from the Yawuru people.

“Liyan” relates to Aboriginal people’s view of their wellbeing, and the way they feel about themselves and their relationship with their community.

A total of 25 artists from diverse backgrounds have works in the show, from re-appropriated pop-culture through a revolutionary lens, to pieces confronting Captain James Stirling’s little-known role leading the Pinjarra Massacre.

Curator Sharon Tassicker said the catalyst for the exhibition was a group of artists discussing what needed to be addressed to allow Australia to move forward.


“We didn’t think we’d faced up to the history, and a lot of people didn’t actually know what had gone down in terms of the history of Australia and WA post-settlement, and people didn’t know pre-settlement, pre-white arrival, what the history was,” she said.

Some works catalogue historic and contemporary prejudice, from the high-profile racism experienced by footballer Adam Goodes—called an ape and conspicuously booed—to the everyday slurs Aboriginal people and others routinely hear.

A couple of pieces examine Stirling’s role in Pinjarra, as well as surveyor general John Septimus Roe who was part of a contingent ordered to prevent anyone escaping.

Roe wrote in his journal that wounded Noongars “took to hiding themselves among the bushes and dead logs of the river banks, and were picked off by the party on either shore”.

There’s a series of parallel events as part of Australiyaniality including the Smiths Lake Wishing Tree at the lake off Kayle Street, North Perth, where people can make a wish for Australia’s future.

It’s from 12.30pm-5.30pm on November 18, and Australiyaniality runs at 10 Douglas Street until November 25, noon to 6pm, Tues to Fri, and also Sun.

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