Poignant art

A VIRTUAL REALITY recreation of the Carrolup-Marribank mission gives a heart-breaking glimpse into the lives of the stolen generations.

Up until the 1970s, many First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families and put into institutional care “for their own good” in camps and missions across WA.

Part of the government policy of assimilation, it was was based on the misguided assumption that the lives of First Nations people would be improved if they became part of white society.

In the exhibition Limen – ‘At the Fence’, visitors are taken on a VR tour of Carrolup mission where they experience the sights and sounds of what kids used to see and hear.

Accompanying the visuals are moving personal stories from stolen generation survivors, including Bibblemun-Kaneang woman Edith De Giambattista (nee Smith), Wilman-Koreng-Kaneang man Tony Hansen and Koreng-Nyungar man Tim Flowers, who were at Carrolup-Marribank.

“Through this exhibition we aim to make visible some of the loss of language, culture, family and belonging that are at the root of many ongoing issues facing stolen generations survivors and their families today,” says exhibition curator Reena Tiwari.

According to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about 46 per cent of Aboriginal people in WA are stolen generations survivors and their children, meaning some 40,000 people were affected by the institutionalisation of Aboriginal children.

WA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation Chair Jim Morrison says the exhibition is a vivid reminder of what these children and their families went through. 

“It’s about truth,” he says. “The truth is never far away from what we are sharing with you [all] today – we need truth, we want justice, without justice, we can’t heal. We want to heal not just as individuals but as a collective”. 

Also in the exhibition is a fence art installation – with eerie silhouettes of children – and an interactive portrait.

The exhibition has been led by the survivors and curated by Professor Tiwari, Dr Chamila Subasinghe and Emeritus Professor John Stephens, from Curtin’s School of Design and the Built Environment. 

It’s part of the wider Missions Connect project, which aims to transform former missions across WA into healing spaces for stolen generations survivors.

Limen – ‘At the Fence’ is  in “the nook” on the ground floor of the State Library until February 28.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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