The Carrolup Story: 18 Months On

Some of the Carrolup young artists. Front row: Reynold Hart (Far Left), Parnell Dempster (Middle) and Revel Cooper (Far Right). Back row, 2nd Left: Barry Loo. Do you know who the other boys are?

Some of the Carrolup young artists. Front row: Reynold Hart (Far Left), Parnell Dempster (Middle), Ross Jones (2nd Right) and Revel Cooper (Far Right). Back row: Claude Kelly (Far Left) and Barry Loo (2nd Left). Mary Durack Miller Collection, J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History.

I can’t believe that John and I missed the 18 month anniversary of our website, The Carrolup Story. Yes, we launched The Carrolup Story as a Storytelling, Education and Healing resource on 10th November 2018, the 85th birthday of Noelene White, daughter of Carrolup teacher Noel White. Since that time, the website has grown to over 200 pages, including 173 Story and Healing blog postings. In addition, we have developed an associated YouTube channel which contains 37 films clips.

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

Our one-liner captures just one element of the fascinating Carrolup Story. As our project has unfolded, we have taken our audience on a journey through time, as we have shared many Stories from before, during, and after the period that the Aboriginal child artists lived at Carrolup.

The Aboriginal children of Carrolup ‘reached out’ to white society with their drawings in the 1940s. We have been  helping them reach out again. We have celebrated the children’s artistic talents, as well as their scholastic, musical and sporting achievements, and their strong personal values and sense of community.

We have celebrated the achievements of Noel White, the teacher who helped the children overcome their trauma and inspired their art, and the 71-year old Englishwoman Mrs Florence Rutter who exhibited the Carrolup art on both sides of the world to much public acclaim.

Seventy years ago, on the 2nd February 1950, Mrs Rutter told the boys of Carrolup that she would do all in her power to make their work known throughout the world. We have taken up Florence’s mantle—our ambition is that the story of the Aboriginal child artists of Carrolup, and those stories associated with it, spread far and wide.

We have been thrilled by the positive feedback we have had about the website. Here is an example, from Carlie Atkinson, the CEO of We Al-li Healing Programs.

‘What an incredible resource you have collectively created… I was moved to tears going through the material. Simply awesome! A beautifully crafted site full of incredible material—story telling saves lives. I love this quote, “We believe in a strengths-based, solution-focused approach to healing that celebrates success and cultivates positivity, acceptance and cultural pride. Positive Stories facilitate healing” – you have achieved this in bundles. I highly recommend that everyone out there explore The Carrolup Story.’

One of the primary aims of this project has been to connect with members of the families of the children who were at Carrolup.  Our content has been well-received, and our photographs have been circulated among family members, often resulting in much joy. In fact, we have been deeply moved by the sincere appreciation that Aboriginal people have expressed after we have connected them with photos, drawings and documents related to their family.

Thank you to all those people who have help us, contacted us, or just spent time reading content on The Carrolup Story.  Here are some links to our first articles about building the website and our past anniversaries, for those of you who want to read more.

> Welcome

> Developing ‘The Carrolup Story’

> The Carrolup Story: Six-Month Anniversary

> ‘The Carrolup Story’: First Anniversary

I leave you with John talking about the importance of the story of the Aboriginal child artists of Carrolup.

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