‘The Carrolup Story’: First Anniversary

Janette (Jenny), Noelene and Ross White. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Janette (Jenny), Noelene and Ross White. Noel & Lily White Collection.

Today, is the first anniversary of the launch of our Storytelling, Education and Healing online resource, The Carrolup Story. It is also the 86th birthday of Noelene White, the daughter of Carrolup School teachers Noel and Lilly White. Happy Birthday, Noelene!

Noelene was 12-years old when her family moved to Carrolup Native Settlement in May 1946, arriving to find traumatised Aboriginal children living in fear and squalor. Noel White connected with the children and inspired them to create beautiful landscape art that gained international acclaim, challenged the state government’s racist policies, and in turn inspired four more generations of Noongar artists.

Seventy years after her family arrived at Carrolup, a close friend, filmmaker Mike Liu, and I visited Noelene at her house here in Perth. She shared her vivid memories of the time she spent at Carrolup, and showed us all her family’s related memorabilia. She really brought the story of Carrolup alive for us, so much so that I decided to write a book about the child artists. Noelene was thrilled to hear this and has since continued to encourage me to write and also to use her family treasures. The book is nearing completion.

Noelene also encouraged us to meet John Stanton, former Director of the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at The University of Western Australia. John has been involved with the story of Carrolup for over 40 years, and he and Noelene have been close friends since 1985.

John and I immediately realised that with our shared passion for the story of Carrolup, and our complementary background and knowledge, we needed to be working together on a project focused on the Aboriginal child artists of Carrolup. Since then, we have developed a number of project elements and have become firm friends.

Like me, John believes that telling the story of Carrolup can facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma and its consequences (e.g. mental health problems, addiction) experienced by Aboriginal people. Moreover, our work can enhance public awareness of the resilience and achievements of Aboriginal people in the face of great adversity, which will help reduce the prejudice and racism in wider society that are strong barriers to healing.

A major aim of our new project was to develop a Storytelling, Education and Healing Resource, which we titled The Carrolup Story. We have done this with the help of a close friend of ours from Neath in Wales (UK), web developer Ash Whitney. We are thrilled with the look of the website that Ash created and with the ease of use of the WordPress system he developed for us to upload new content. The website is linked to The Carrolup Story YouTube channel we developed. We are very grateful to Mike Liu for his help in preparing our clips for uploading on to YouTube.

The website now comprises nearly 200 pages, including a total of 142 Story and Healing Blogs. It contains photographs of some of the artworks and people involved in the story, documents, letters, newspaper articles, and links to various other resources, including the film clips on our YouTube channel.

We have been thrilled by the positive feedback we have had about the website. One of the primary aims of our first year working open 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.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people like to hear and read different elements of the story of Carrolup, and some want to tell their story of their connection to Carrolup and the child artists. Our community engagement will allow us to create a powerful Story of Stories.

To date, we have received no funding for our work, which has obviously limited us to some extent. In the new year, we will start a fundraising drive so that we can initiate an exciting second stage of website development.

We would like to thank all those people who have been involved in one way or other with our project. You know who you are. Some of you have become close friends, and we treasure your friendship and our meetings. Others of you are in regular contact, but we have yet to meet you. Some of you we will meet in the new year. Whoever you are, we thank you for your interest and support.

I’d just like to end with a more recent testimonial we have received:

‘Most interested to hear of future plans for The Carrolup Story—and of the amazing possibilities that lie ahead. The website is already a unique website, yet you and team are aiming higher still—to create something new that combines the potential of modern technology with the long and direct experiences in your different fields to further heal and to expand hope, pride, purpose. Marvellous!

In fact, what you’re doing can’t be said better than the way you say it: “At its heart, our story is about the innate emotional needs of human beings, like feeling a sense of belonging. What happens if these needs are not satisfied? And what can happen if satisfaction of these needs is restored?”

I like this line too: “We are taking up her (Florence Rutter’s) mantle, having in our possession far more powerful tools to tell, and disseminate, this enthralling and inspiring Story.” Meantime best wishes for your book Aboriginal Child Artists of Carrolup. I’d like to be there for its launch!’’ Perpetua Durack Clancy, niece of Mary Durack Miller who is an important character in the story of Carrolup 

 You can see other testimonials here.

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