Down The Barrel: Indigenous Resistance


One of the Keeping Place support team, Barry Ion, has done a fabulous video of Elaine Syron’s “Day of Conversations” at her  Down The Barrel: Indigenous Resistance exhibition.

The exhibition closes at 4 pm on Saturday 26-aug-2017.  

So I urge you to go and see it before it closes.   Barry’s excellent video will give you a great overview of what motivated Elaine to pursue her photographic journey 40+ years ago.

Down The Barrel: Indigenous Resistance


University of Sydney
Jane Foss Russell Plaza
 (near Wentworth Building)
City Road
Darlington NSW 2006

Verge Gallery, City Road, Darlington NSW 2006


John Young

Keeping Place Systems, not-for-profit entity

Cast List

Syron, Elaine (1)Elaine Syron
Keeping Place Collection
PO Box 295
St Peters NSW 2044
0411 725 981

E+G (1)Gordon Syron
Founder and Artist
Keeping Place Collection
PO Box 295
St Peters NSW 2044
0421 031 392

JY_TraniJohn Young
Director Strategy
Keeping Place Project
PO Box 536
Spit Junction NSW 2088
0407 940 943

Everard, DelwynDelwyn Everard
Late of Arts Law Centre
(new contact details to be advised)

Terry GrundmannTerry Grundmann
Tax Accountant
Prime Tax Experts
Level 1, 420 Oxford St
Bondi Junction NSW 2022
02 9369 1623

Ion, BarryBarry Ion
CEO + Video Producer
Lortron Entertainment
Level 1, 420 Oxford Street
Bondi Junction NSW 2022
0404 399 109

Rhydderch, Alex
Alex Rhydderch
Colin Biggers & Paisley
Level 42, 2 Park Street
Sydney NSW 2000
02 8281 4570

Ostermayer, AlexAlex Ostermayer
Colin Biggers & Paisley
Level 42, 2 Park Street
Sydney NSW 2000
02 8281 4615

Khan, SuhairSuhair Khan
Google Cultural Institute
48 Pirrama Rd
Pyrmont NSW 2009

Aboriginal language to be revitalised in NSW

abor language map

The New South Wales Government has announced plans to legislate to protect and revitalise Aboriginal languages.

Videos featuring photographer Elaine Syron

There have been quite a few video and TV programs created which look at the story of photographer Elaine Syron, and how she created the Keeping Place Collection of photography and Aboriginal painting, sculpture and artefacts.

We are gradually collecting up these video clips and listing them here so that people can be aware of the story behind the Keeping Place collection with Aboriginal artist Gordon Syron.


<insert links to Elaine’s videos here>


Please let us know about any other videos about Elaine Syron, Gordon Syron or their Keeping Place  Collection but not listed here and we shall add it to this web site.


John Young
Director Strategy and Marketing
Keeping Place Project

Videos featuring artist Gordon Syron

There have been quite a few video and TV programs created which look at the story of Gordon Syron, how he started painting and established himself as one of the fathers of modern urban Aboriginal painting in the 1970s and 1980s.  We are gradually collecting up these video clips and listing them here so that people can be aware of what is behind Gordon’s unique art, and how it led to the creation of the Keeping Place collection with photographer Elaine Kitchener Perot, who later became his wife.


Never forget who owned this country: Gordon Syron

Renowned Indigenous artist, Gordon Syron , recounts teaching at Eora College in its early days and how he and …

Video – 05/14/2014 – 06:30

“Judgement by his peers”: Gordon Syron

Renowned Indigenous artist, Gordon Syron , explains the inspiration for his most famous painting, …

Video – 05/14/2014 – 06:28

Learning to paint in Long Bay: Gordon Syron

Renowned Indigenous artist and Biripi/Worimi man, Gordon Syron , describes how he turned an interest in art into a practice when he …

Video – 05/14/2014 – 06:26


Please let us know about any other videos about Gordon Syron, Elaine Syron or their Keeping Place  Collection and we shall add it to this web site.


John Young
Director Strategy and Marketing
Keeping Place Project

Publications by Dr Keith Vincent Smith

KVS2After a long career as a journalist with a number of newspapers Dr Keith Vincent Smith developed a strong interest in the history of the First Australians of the Sydney Region, while taking his first university degree as a mature age student at Macquarie University.  His passion for this subject was so intense that he then completed a Masters degree, and a PhD.

Keith Vincent Smith continues his research locally and far away to St Petersberg, London and Dublin, where some of the most significant first record documents now exist.  He has now  published many stories about individual named First Australians, who were witness to the invasion of their country by “Redcoats” and “Gubbas”.

Keith is an invaluable resource to the Keeping Place Project, for checking facts about how the life of the Gadigal, Gameragal and Garigal peoples were so greatly effected by the arrival of that First Fleet on 26th January 1788.   Probably no other single person knows so much about the life of so many named individuals, whose lives were thrown into turmoil by those first British arrivals, who were mostly convicts and provided the foundation for our modern Australian society.


  • The Illustrated Earth Garden Herbal, Nelson, 1978 / Elm Tree Books, London 1979
  • King Bungaree: A Sydney Aborigine meets the great South Pacific Explorers, 1799-1830, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW, 1992
  • Bennelong: The coming in of the Eora, Sydney Cove 1788-1792, Kangaroo Press/Simon & Schuster 2001
  • Wallumedegal: An Aboriginal history of Ryde, City of Ryde, 2005
  • MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys, Rosenberg, 2010


  • Governor Phillip and a man named Bennelong, Australian Heritage, vol. 1 (Summer 2005); ‘Bennelong, Ambassador if the Eora’, Australian Heritage vol. 2 (Autumn 2006)
  • Historical articles published in National Library News, National Library of Australia, Canberra, include Words are Clues (February 2004); Port Jackson People (July 2005) and Moorooboora’s Daughter (June 2006)
  • Bennelong among his people, Aboriginal History, Vol. 33, ANU Press, Canberra 2009 (also online)
  • Warrane and Built on the Past in SITE, MCA, Sydney 2013
  • The many faces of Bungaree, in Bungaree The First Australian, at Mosman Art Gallery 2013-2014


  • 15 biographical entries at The Dictionary of Sydney. His entries on Bennelong and Pemulwuy were rated the most visited articles for the three years 2012-2015
  • Entries on Daniel Moowattin and Cora Gooseberry Bungaree, are published in print and online in The Australian Dictionary of Biography, which has commissioned forthcoming profiles of Arabanoo and Bennelong
  • Two biographies of Indigenous artists are published at the Design & Art Australia Online website:  Bowen Bungaree, b. 1804, artist, 2007 and Mickey of Ulladulla b.1825
  • A series of ‘Provenance’ articles in SL Magazine, about Bennelong’s sister Carangarang, his travelling companion Yemmerrawanne, Bennelong’s Letter (Summer 2012-13), Sailing into History (Mari Nawi exhibition, Spring 2010) etc. published by The State Library of New South Wales.
  • Three articles articles online in The Electronic British Library Journal, London: Tupaia’s Sketchbook 2005, Confronting Cook 2009, A Song of the Natives of New South Wales 2011
  • Keith Vincent Smith is the author of the Timeline series ‘Incidents between Aboriginal people in NSW and the British colonisers’ from 1770-1822 published online by The Board of Studies, NSW
  • The City of Ryde website Finding Bennelong is based on his historical research.


  • Keith Vincent Smith was employed as senior researcher by Blackfella Films for Episode 1 and for images and parts of other episodes in the SBS television documentary First Australians (2009)


  • Keith Vincent Smith was curator of two exhibitions about Sydney’s Indigenous people at the State Library of New South Wales
  • He was co-curator with Anthony Bourke for EORA: Mapping Aboriginal Sydney 1770-1850, (2006), curator of MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys, 1790-1850Bennelong’s River at Macquarie University Art Gallery (2008) and,
  • Gamaragal at Manly Art Gallery and Museum (2013-14)


Keith Vincent Smith




Gordon Syron Exhibition: Culture War II


Invite to drinks and discussion
Invite to drinks and discussion

Gordon Syron Exhibition: Culture War II

Heckler’s Gallery
Downing Centre, Local Court Windows
Corner of Elizabeth St and Liverpool St, Sydney

Till Friday  31 July 2015

Gordon Syron is a notorious and well respected Aboriginal Artist, known for his colourful eccentricities, humour and honesty. Syron deals with the struggle to reconcile a messy post-colonial condundrum. His expressive painting style combined with controversial and historical themes, mine the atrocities of colonisation and bring them together with powerful motifs drawn from the Australian landscape.

Syron’s body of work spans four and a half decades. In 1972, after killing a man while defending his family’s land, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. The legal principle of ‘judgement by one’s peers’, a cornerstone of the the jury trial system, becomes farcical when there are no “peers” on the jury. In Syron’s seminal work, Judgement By His Peers,1978, he offers criticism of the incarceration of Indigenous Australians at an astronomical rate; throwing light on the lack of freedoms inherent to a system which from its sinister beginnings, has discriminated against the traditional custodians in a concerted effort to displace them.

Syron began painting in prison, self-taught and determined to look out beyond the bars. He calls his work a mixture of impressionism, modernism, primitivism and surrealism. These influences were inspired by the Masters of Australian and European Art, that hung in the Art Gallery of NSW. During his incarceration Syron visited the gallery on day-leave and gleaned elements from the modern masters; Arthur Boyd, Sid Nolan, Russell Drysdale and the French Impressionists. Roo And Black Sticking, 2010, where Syron appropriates Arthur Boyd’s iconic Wimmera, Central Australian Landscape of the 1950s, juxtaposed against the whimsical “Faux Naive” painting style reminiscent of Sid Nolan. Syron uses the familiarity of this imagery as a backdrop to set a horrific scene; the casual pastime of sticking a ‘black’ as one would a kangaroo, a common activity, legal and encouraged for many years (legally, as late as 1908 in some states). The romance of these majestic beasts, coupled with an Aboriginal mother shielding her child as she flees the merciless pursuit of the rugged Australian cowboy on horseback.

With tongue in cheek, disturbing series’ themes and titles like No Trees And Here Come The Red Coats, Do You Believe In Aboriginal fairies?, The Poisoning Of The Waterholes of Australia, Civilising The Natives: Gender Of God?, 1788 Invasion Day: Coming Through The Heads, Deaths In Custody, Where The Wild Flowers Once Grew, Aboriginal Diggers, and Feather Foot, this selling exhibition Culture War II celebrates a diverse collection and survey of work documenting the dispossession of a now internally displaced People. Like an Oracle Uncle, he calls for the Truth; the kind that lasts when everything else around it dissolves. A kind of reconciliation between seemingly irreconcilable cultures and histories, the likes of which we have not yet seen.

This selling exhibition Culture War II celebrates a diverse collection of work documenting the dispossession of a now internally displaced People. Gordon Syron: the Murderer, the Boxer, the Romantic, the Friend, the Foe, the Activist, the Aboriginal, the Painter, the Teacher, the Poet, and the Man. Here in a house of justice, formerly a department store window box, hang his life’s work. This Heckler’s Gallery installation responds to and subverts our value system, ready to be judged, absorbed, listened to and heard.

“Lest we forget”

Saha Jones and Jordan Reed

ABC Radio package about Syrons Keeping Place 13-mar-2013

I was finding some photos online for Elaine Syron this morning, and I had to go to a Facebook site called Syrons Keeping Place that was originally set up back in 1998 by one of their supporters.

Amongst the gems I found there was an ABC Radio package about Syrons Keeping Place that was broadcast on 15-mar-2013 by Sally Sara in The World Today. 

Here the text of the interviews which is still worth reading 2 years later.  At the end you will find the audio link if you want to listen to the original piece.

Attempts to find a buyer over the years have failed, meaning the collection is locked up and can’t be seen.

SALLY SARA: It’s described as one of the most important Aboriginal art collections in the country.

It’s spent years in warehouses and offices across Sydney, the Syron Collection, also known as a Black Fella’s Dreaming, has been unable to find a permanent home.

It comes as some politicians start questioning why Australia doesn’t have cultural institutions dedicated to Indigenous culture.

Will Ockenden reports.

WILL OCKENDEN: It’s an art collection without parallel but few have ever seen it. 

A Black Fella’s Dreaming, or the Syron Collection, has been put together over the past 30 years by artists Gordon Syron and his wife Elaine. 

GORDON SYRON: I like art. It gives you a lot of freedom and you can, you can say about whatever you want to paint about and put your own story underneath. If someone’s giving somebody a bad time, I mightn’t be a policeman or a lawyer but I can paint a bloody painting about it, and pay the bugger back or make him change his tune.

WILL OCKENDEN: The collection includes thousands of items ranging from the modern to the traditional, from paintings to photographs. It’s a mixture of his own work and others. 

GORDON SYRON: People really take notice to the stories of the paintings. It should make some differences in society. Society think ‘oh paintings, that’s only for the bourgeoisie’, but that’s a load of rubbish. Some of your best paintings come from the most terrible things you know, look at my paintings.

WILL OCKENDEN: Gordon Syron’s love of art began in an unlikely place. He learnt to paint while in jail for murder, in the 1970s.

GORDON SYRON: I had guns because I’d go back to the country and that’s all I had it for, for shooting rabbit and foxes and things like that and of course I had a .22 rifle, I had a.303 too, but I only took a .22 because away I went and I shot the guy, and put him in the ground.

WILL OCKENDEN: Gordon Syron says the shooting was over a dispute about land, something which has heavily influenced his collection.

GORDON SYRON: It represents the beginning of this country, the beginning of Australia when the British came and taking over this country and took it off the Aboriginal people.

WILL OCKENDEN: Towards the end of his sentence, Mr Syron painted what he considers his most meaningful work.

It’s called Judgement By His Peers, and has a white man as the accused, surrounded by a black jury, gallery and judge.

GORDON SYRON: One of the biggest shocks to my culture was I believed that each person was entitled to be judged by his peers, and his peers were your equals. And when I went to court on the jury they would be some Aboriginal people or some black people or dark people on that jury, but there wasn’t – they were all white fellas.

WILL OCKENDEN: Adrian Newstead, runs the Aboriginal Art Coo-Ee Art Gallery in Sydney.

He says it is a remarkable collection of work.

ADRIAN NEWSTEAD: Gordon collected paintings because he was expanding on a visual black history of New South Wales in particular, but really it can read as a history of dispossession of Aboriginal people.

WILL OCKENDEN: Over the years, parts of the collection have been displayed in various buildings around Sydney.

The Syron Collection has been evicted from some buildings, it’s been displayed temporarily in some galleries and while it’s been popular, the works have eventually gone back into storage.

The long fight to find a buyer – and a permanent home – for the whole collection has some high profile supporters.

The collection now has 11 patrons, including former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, and Liberal Party MP Philip Ruddock.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: It is a unique and very special collection, one in which I came to a view should not be lost.

It says something of our history from the perspective of those who were seen by many to be the losers. To my way of thinking, if it helps to tell that story it’s very important and very unique.

I certainly hope that it will find a very substantial and important home in this great city, that ought to be able to have examples of all of its heritage for all to see and to understand.

WILL OCKENDEN: Despite the lack of a buyer, Gordon Syron says he’ll keep hoping that one day the collection will be displayed for all the people of New South Wales to see.

GORDON SYRON: I’ll never give up painting. Painting keeps me alive. It gives me a voice. It gives me a say. It gives me perspective. I say I’ve got a triple PhD, I got a triple PhD from the university of life. Once you get a triple PhD you never forget – there’s no text book you can look up. You retain it up here, and if you forget it, well it’s gone.

SALLY SARA: That’s artist Gordon Syron, ending that report from Will Ockenden.