Artworks from Noongar children of the Stolen Generations are on display at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York state.

Originally bought by New York art collector Herbert Mayer, the Indigenous artworks were donated to Colgate University in 1966 and rediscovered in the University’s storage nearly 40 years later.

Colgate gave the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University custodianship of the collection in 2013 and the works were returned to Noongar country.

“The Herbert Mayer Collection has become an intrinsic part of Curtin’s commitment to reconciliation and healing. The works are deeply significant to the Noongar community because they are helping family histories to be pieced together and enabling the grieving of lost connections to occur,” said Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry.

The art was first created at the Carrolup Native Settlement – an institution where Indigenous children were raised after being forcibly taken from their families in the 1940s.

The settlement was created in 1915 near Katanning during the enforcement of the Aborigines Act (1905).

Known as ‘Carrolup Art’, the timeframe for these artworks ranges from 1946 to 1951.

Professor Terry and John Curtin Gallery Director Chris Malcolm went to New York for the opening of the ‘Koolanga Boodja Neh Nidjuuk (Children Looking and Listening on Country)’ exhibition on April 13th.

“These culturally and historically significant artworks offer an insight into a dark period in our country’s history and the incredible resilience of Western Australia’s Noongar community,” Professor Terry said.

A ceremonial welcome from the Chief of the Oneida Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the area’s original custodians, was part of the opening.

The ceremony was held in the Picker Art Gallery, where the collection was held for decades before being rediscovered in 2004.

Curtin’s Elder-in-Residence and Carrolup Elders Reference Group (CERG) Chair Professor Simon Forrest, Co-Convenor of Bringing Them Home Committee WA Tony Hansen and past Carrolup resident Dorothy Bagshaw also attended the showcase opening.

“Embracing our shared history is fundamental to genuine reconciliation and we want to share the sense of acknowledgement, celebration and hope that these artworks embody with all Australians and people around the world,” Professor Terry said.

The Professor also said Curtin was developing plans to form the Carrolup Research Education and Engagement Centre at the John Curtin Gallery to guarantee worldwide access to the artworks.

By Hannah Cross