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Traumatised Aboriginal children living in the squalor of a 1940s government native settlement in Western Australia create beautiful landscape drawings that gain international acclaim and challenge a government’s racist policies.

About the Project

'Welcome to The Carrolup Story. In developing this unique resource, we aim that many more Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people will walk alongside each other on equal terms to help create a society where people have an improved wellness, are more respectful, caring and empathic towards their fellows, and more protective of our planet.' David Clark, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, and John Stanton, Adjunct Professor and former Director of the Berndt Museum of Anthropology.

‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.’

Nelson Mandela

Children at Carrolup, early 1940s

Latest Blogs

02/02/2020
Mr White and Mr Ingram with the Carrolup boys. Photographer: Vera Hack, January 1950. Noel & Lily White Collection.

70th Anniversary: A Promise

In yesterday’s blog, I described the first two days of the visit of Florence Rutter and Vera Hack to Carrolup Native Settlement. Mrs Rutter’s words show clearly how highly she thought of the boys of Carrolup! ‘During the three days we spent at Carrolup we were able to […]
01/02/2020
Carrolup boys with teachers Mr Ingram (left rear) and Noel and Lily White. Photographer: Vera Hack, January 1950. Noel & Lily White Collection.

70th Anniversary: A Special Visit

Seventy years ago yesterday, Mrs Florence Rutter and her friend Vera Hack arrived for their two and a half day visit of Carrolup Native Settlement. This visit was not only special in its own right, but it triggered a series of important events over the following two years, […]
31/01/2020
Bounding for Home by Barry Loo, watercolour and black ink on paper, 30.2 x 50.5cm, 1950. The Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Artwork, John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University.

Carrolup and Florence Rutter, Part 4

Mrs Rutter returns to Perth after her tour of Australia and New Zealand in January 1950. She is approached by Mrs Vera Hack, who informs Florence that she is willing to drive her down to Carrolup and stay there with her as long as she likes. Florence then […]
Parnell Dempster with his pastel drawing book. Photographer: Vera Hack, January 1950. Noel & Lily White Collection.

‘Stories help us develop empathy. They allow us to understand another person’s world from their perspective.’

Lewis Mehl-Madrona

Story

09/11/2018
Aboriginal prisoners in neck chains at Wyndham, Northern Western Australia. State Library of Victoria.

Colonisation

The colonisation of Australia by Europeans had a massive negative impact on a peoples and culture that has existed for over 50,000 years. The first settlers brought diseases that wiped out large numbers of Aboriginal people, as they had no immunity to European diseases. Many of the survivors existed […]
09/11/2018
Aboriginal children of Carrolup in the early 1940s. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History.

Trauma

Revel Cooper, a Noongar boy, is made a Ward of the State by the Department of Native Affairs and sent to Carrolup at the age of six in 1940. In a letter written in 1960 about life on Carrolup Native Settlement, Revel presents a vivid picture of Aboriginal […]
09/11/2018
The creek by Simpson Kelly, pastel on paper, 18.5 x 24 cm, c.1948. Noel & Lily White Collection, Berndt Museum of Anthropology. [WU7563]

Connection

When teacher Noel White arrives at Carrolup in May 1946, he is unable to communicate with the Aboriginal children. They sit sullenly and silently at their schoolroom desks. ‘The first week at school with our new teacher we were all scared stiff. I think if it wasn’t for […]
09/11/2018
Exhibition of Carrolup art at Boans department store, The West Australian , 23rd October 1947. The boys from left to right are Claude Kelly, Barry Loo, Reynold Hart and Parnell Dempster. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Acclaim

In 1947, the children’s drawings attract public attention locally at the Katanning Show, and further afield in Perth. ​Three children (Reynold Hart, Dulcie Penny and Vera Wallam) have their articles accepted in the Lord Forrest Centenary Booklet – in competition with other children from all over the state – whilst Parnell Dempster […]
09/11/2018
The 1948 Carrolup School football team with their teacher, Noel White.

Football

The success of the children, along with the trusting and loving relationship that has developed between the children and their teachers, lead to increased jealousy and conflicts amongst Settlement staff, as well as to violence and government inquiries. Staff turnover at Carrolup is high, and several superintendents are […]
09/11/2018
Mrs Rutter with Prince Rudy Dinah and a group of Carrolup girls. The girl second from the left is Mildred Jones. Photographer: Noel White, 31st July 1949. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Florence

In July 1949, a 71-year old Englishwoman Mrs Florence Rutter briefly visits Carrolup and purchases five pounds worth of drawings and designs. She exhibits the drawings and designs in eight cities around Australia and New Zealand, and receives many orders for the children’s artworks. The Department of Native Affairs agrees […]
09/11/2018
Part of a letter from Reynold Hart to Mrs Rutter which appeared in the Daily Graphic article ‘Can Your Child Draw Like This?’ in the UK on the 29th July 1950. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Letters

Once Mrs. Rutter returns to the U.K., she continues to update the School on her progress. She receives many welcome letters from the Carrolup boys during 1950. ‘Every letters [sic] you write Mr White reads it out to the school children. We are very proud of you and […]
09/11/2018
Parnell Dempster's Down to Drink adorns a wall at the 45th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society in London, 1951. Mrs Rutter proudly discusses the drawing with Mr and Mrs Richter. Mary Durack Miller Collection, J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History, 1951.

Europe

Initially, Native Affairs Commissioner Mr S G Middleton writes enthusiastic letters to Mrs Rutter. She organises an exhibition in Appeldoorn, the Netherlands, where the art is acclaimed. People’s perceptions of ‘Stone-Age’ Aboriginal people are changed. However, an open conflict breaks out between the new supervisor at Carrolup, Mr […]
09/11/2018
Article by school headmaster John Stokes, The West Australian , 24th February 1951. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Outcry

Mr Middleton tries to justify the school’s closure in a letter to The West Australian newspaper. He talks about sending the boys to missions and says: ‘… they will at last begin to receive some spiritual education and training which may not yet be too late to stabilise sufficiently their characters to a point where they may […]
09/11/2018
Untitled [Landscape with Fallen Tree] by Parnell Dempster, pastel and graphite on paper, 23 x 29.1cm, 1953. The Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Artwork, John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University.

Shattered

The boys’ dreams of a better future are shattered by the school closure and their later experiences in a white dominated society which considers them ‘inferior’. Revel Cooper says the decision to close the school: ‘… closed the pathway to a better way of life for coloured people.’ […]
09/11/2018

Search

Anthropologist John Stanton first learns about the Carrolup children’s art in 1976 when he sees two Revel Cooper landscapes framing Ronald and Catherine Berndt’s study door at the University of Western Australia. He reads Child Artists of the Australian Bush by Mary Durack Miller and Florence Rutter, and […]
09/11/2018
Ezzard Flowers, John Stanton and Athol Farmer inspecting the ‘lost’ Carrolup Collection at the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, 12th April 2005. Berndt Museum of Anthropology. [WU/P32228]

Discovery

In 2004, John Stanton’s close Australian friend Professor Howard Morphy is invited to visit Colgate University in Upper New York State by the Director of Colgate’s Picker Gallery. The Gallery set aside some Aboriginal artefacts for him to look at. When Howard arrives, the Gallery Curator, Diane Butler, mentions that […]

‘Land is a story place. Land holds the stories of human survival across the generations. Land shapes people, just as people shape their countries.’

Judy Atkinson

Leaning tree by Milton Jackson, pastel on paper, 41 x 33cm, c.1949. Noel & Lily White Collection, Berndt Museum of Anthropology. [WU7568]
Hunters by Revel Cooper, pastel on paper, 29 x 38cm, c.1948. Stan, Melvie and Gael Phillips Collection, 1947 – 65, Berndt Museum of Anthropology. [WU7304]

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

Margaret Mead

‘Healing is not just about recovering what we have lost or repairing what has been broken. It is about embracing our life force to create a new and vibrant fabric that keeps us grounded and connected, wraps us in warmth and love and gives us the joy of seeing what we have created.’

Helen Milroy

The children of Carrolup in their schoolroom with the White family and visitors from Katanning. Photographer: Noelene White, late 1948 or early 1949. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Healing

06/02/2020
Aboriginal children of Carrolup in the early 1940s. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History.

The ‘Bringing them home’ documentary

The documentary Bringing them home: separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, found on the Australian Human Rights Commission YouTube channel, ‘was produced in 1997 and forms part of the Bringing them home education resource for use in Australian classrooms. This resource is based on […]
21/01/2020

Sustainable Community Development: From What’s Wrong To What’s Strong – Cormac Russell

In a previous blog entitled Community Building, I introduced Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) as a way of facilitating healing in communities. I pointed out that the most common approach to ‘helping’ communities (and individuals) has involved focusing on the community’s needs, deficiencies and problems. This approach leads to […]
13/11/2019

Don Coyhis, White Bison & Wellbriety

Some time ago, I found a great biography on encore.org of a very special Native American, Don Coyhis. I first uploaded this biography onto my Recovery Stories website back in April 2014, but it’s time this biography is on our website as a celebration of Don’s amazing healing work […]

About us

The Carrolup Story project brings together kindred spirits who believe strongly in the healing power of Story. The project is based on the core values of authenticity, belonging, connection, courage, creativity, empathy, empowerment, safety and trust.

More about us


John Stanton
David Clark

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any enquiries

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