THE ‘Healing our Spirit’ exhibition of artworks by Aboriginal people in custody was opened at the Bundian Way Gallery in Delegate on Saturday, March 9.
The fascinating collection was officially opened by Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
Over 80 people attended during the day in spite of - or potentially because of - the popular Delegate Campraft being held at the showgrounds.
BJ Cruse was present, welcoming visitors on behalf of Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council, while Pastor Ossie Cruse gave a spirited Welcome to Country.
Bombala Council Mayor, Bob Stewart spoke of the considerable values the Bundian Way has brought to the region already, and the new Arts Coordinator at Jigamy, Kim Aldridge, was welcomed.
Les Strzelecki of Corrective Services, Cooma, spoke of how appropriate was the name, ‘Healing our Spirit’, and the importance of inspiration in the works displayed.
He asked those present to consider how this might have changed the lives of the artists.
Mr Gooda gave a powerful talk. He praised the art and the imagination of the exhibition, considering what it will mean for the Aboriginal people in custody.
“What we’re seeing with the Bundian Way is a reconciliation. It’s a mechanism. You don’t just get people waking up one day and saying, ‘Let’s do reconciliation.’ This is a track, a meeting place, that links the freshwater to the saltwater, the beaches to the mountains,” he said.
“People traversed that track for a lot longer than most of us can get our heads around. And it should be a track for all of us to come together now, where we can come together and understand the value of what’s happening in our age.”
He stressed how important it is to find the things we all agree upon, as a way of moving forward. He described his agenda as Commissioner as comprising relations foremost, and in health, education and criminal justice, as well as constitutional recognition.
He acknowledged the work of Corrective Services’ officers in helping the Aboriginal people in custody find in their art a way forward.
The over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody remains a great problem and speculated on ways to avoid this and perhaps create a safer society for all.
A good number of the artworks were sold during the opening on Saturday, and strong interest suggests there will be more sales to come, with many remarking on the great quality and value.
Similar works in Sydney would cost many times the sales price in Delegate.
“But the most essential element of the opening,” says John Blay, the Bundian Way Project Officer, “was the evocation of Aboriginal culture, how powerful it can be and how its expression can enhance everyday life in places like Delegate, or Eden, or just about anywhere. Great hopes were raised for the future.”