Speech: NAIDOC Week 2006, Official Launch Of Art Exhibition - 'Gelam Nguzu Kazi - Dugong My Son'

by Acting Secretary, Mr David Spencer - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

3 July 2006

Good afternoon.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

I once again acknowledge the Ngunnawal peoples-the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand today.

I also extend welcome to Antonia Syme, Artbank Director, and a very special welcome to David Bosun and Billy Missi, two of the Gelam artists, and to other guests from Indigenous communities who join with us today in our NAIDOC celebrations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade values and supports the unique contribution Indigenous artists make to the identity of Australia's culturally diverse society.

Gelam Nguzu Kazi- Dugong My Son, is a collection of striking artistic works from the western Torres Strait in northern Australia and an important body of work from the Kubin Community on Mua Island.

Drawing on their carving traditions, the artists in this exhibition pioneered a unique style of Torres Strait art, to tell their ancient history and stories in contemporary forms. Gelam is a strong statement of works in which the artists are reclaiming and reaffirming their culture for future generations, and making social commentaries on their environment and surrounds.

I am pleased to say, since these prints were first produced, international audiences have shown an increasing interest in this style. And with the opening last week of the new print workshop in Kubin, I'm sure this movement will only grow and further capture the attention of art enthusiasts around the world.

The Department, through its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program, is proud to tour this exciting exhibition of prints over the next three years throughout the Department's global network of diplomatic missions.

Gelam will be used by our posts as a vehicle for raising awareness and informing international audiences about the diversity of Indigenous Australia and in particular the culture and art of the Torres Strait.

The Department has a long successful history in touring exhibitions of Indigenous Australian arts around the world.

Among them - Kiripuranji, featuringcontemporary art from the Tiwi Islands, Seasons of the Kunwinjku, featuring art from West Arnhem Land, and Kickin' up Dust a photographic exhibition showcasing Indigenous festivals from around Australia.

I am confident Gelam will also convey a strong and positive message about Australia's Indigenous peoples and cultures and that it enhances understanding of, and appreciation for, the distinctive world of Torres Strait Island people.

Produced by the Australian Art Print Network for the Kubin Community Council, the exhibition has been prepared for international touring by Artbank, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Kiripuranjiis also a joint venture between DFAT and Artbank.  As the Australian Government's contemporary art rental service, Artbank also provides many of the magnificent artworks that adorn our diplomatic missions around the world.  It is a delight to work with an organisation that strongly supports emerging Australian artists.

So it is with great pleasure I invite you to explore for yourself the rich culture of the Torres Strait through the stories depicted in this wonderful exhibition and declare Gelam Nguzu Kazi- Dugong My Son, open.

Thank you, and enjoy the exhibition.