2007 Proposal for an Aboriginal Keeping Place

Black Fairy logo


An Aboriginal Keeping Place

Original version authored by Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law, UTS, 2007-2008
Updated by Gordon + Elaine Syron, 12-nov-2014

…celebrating our survival…

….growing our culture… 

…protecting our heritage…

…keeping our community strong…


This proposal document emerged from the work of a committee of mostly Aboriginal people, who met under the leadership of Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor during 2007, at “The Shed”, Wilson Street, Darlington. The committee was made up of many close friends and supporters of Gordon and Elaine Syron. One of the most significant achievements of this committee was their recommendation too the Syrons to transition the name of the project from Black Fella’s Dreaming Aboriginal Art Gallery Museum to the much simpler Keeping Place.

The Vision

To create a National Aboriginal Keeping Place and Cultural Centre in Sydney that celebrates our survival, provides a space for the contemporary expression of our contemporary culture, protects our heritage and keeps our community strong.

Our plan to form The Keeping Place and Cultural Centre is to find a benefactor who will purchase the Black Fella’s Dreaming Museum’s collection from Gordon and Elaine Syron and use it to found the Keeping Place and Cultural Centre for the absolute benefit of the Aboriginal commmunities. The benefactor will not sub-divide the collection for any purpose and will guarantee that all artworks currently belonging to the Museum will be included in the founding collection of the Keeping Place. Artworks by Gordon Syron and photographs by Elaine Pelot-Syron will be loaned to and preserved by The Keeping Place and Cultural Centre.

Aboriginal communities will benefit from the founding of The Keeping Place and Cultural Centre in the following ways:

The Possibilities

A Keeping Place –There is no Aboriginal cultural centre in metropolitan Sydney that provides a safe, temperature controlled and humidity-free place to store cultural material including: artworks, sculpture and artefacts.

A cultural centre –There is a need for a cultural centre in the inner urban area that provides a space for the celebration of and for interaction with our contemporary urban culture. This can include the hosting of workshops on painting, sculpture, performance, music, the creation of Aboriginal cultural artefacts and creative writing.

A celebration of survival –A space dedicated to the preservation of our cultural material and for the expression and practice of our contemporary urban cultures could also provide a space that collects and stores the history and stories of urban Aboriginal people.

An educational environment –A space dedicated to our culture and history is a place where Aboriginal people and all other Australians can come to and learn about the diversity and vibrancy of our contemporary, urban Aboriginal cultures.

An Opportunity for Economic Development –A cultural space that focuses on showcasing contemporary Aboriginal culture also provides an opportunity for economic development by creating a place where Aboriginal artists can sell their art to the public. It can provide an environment where a majority of the money made in sales can be directed back to the artist.

A space for developing youth –A space that is dedicated to Aboriginal culture and history with a commitment to education is an ideal environment in which to deliver programs to youth aimed at developing self-esteem, confidence and vital life skills.

A space for developing leadership – A space that is dedicated to Aboriginal culture and history with a commitment to education is also an ideal environment in which to focus on developing the skills of community members through leadership programs, literacy programs, financial numeracy programs and other programs focused on developing capacity.

A place to focus on the therapeutic benefits of culture and art – A Keeping Place and Cultural Centre that is focused on education and capacity building is well placed to be offering programs that capitalise on the therapeutic benefits of engaging in cultural and art practice. Groups within the Aboriginal community who could be the focus of this work are: Aboriginal people transiting from prison back to the community and Aboriginal people with disabilities or mental illnesses.

Opportunities for employment and training –The activities of the Keeping Place will provide a large range of opportunities for the employment and training of Aboriginal people in order to staff the centre, curate the material, educate the public and run the operations with transparency, accountability and good governance principles.

The Keeping Place Art Collection

The heart and starting point for the Keeping Place and Cultural Centre is the Gordon and Elaine Syron’s Black Fella’s Dreaming Museum. It is an important collection that contains many of Australia’s leading contemporary and urban Aboriginal artists such as:

Adam Hill
Bev Coe
Carmel Nicholson
Christine Christopherson
Daphne Wallace
Darren Cooper
David Janganlinji
Euphemia Bostock
Genevieve Grieves
Gordon Hookey
Gordon Syron
James P. Simon
Jason Wing
Jeffrey Samuels
Karen Casey
Karla Dickens
Laddie Timbrey
Merv Bishop
Michael Riley
Michelle Blakeney
Roy Kennedy
Shane “Yondee” Hanson
Tim Ives
Tracey Moffatt

The collection also contains: a didgeridoo collection, a book collection, a poster collection, a t-shirt collection, doll collection, artefacts and a rare sculpture collection.

Some other important traditional pieces in the Syron Collection are:

2 large bark paintings by Robin Nganjmirra
2 early controversial Clifford Possums
4 early Gabriella Possums
66 body paintings by Emily Kngwarreye and her family
Mary Dixon
Gordon Pupugamirri
Kamahi Djordon King
Djawida Nadjongorle
Abraham Dakgalawuy
Lindsay Bird Petyarre
David Cameron
Joshua Bangarr
Chris Ngaboy
Vivianne Gilbert Muiya
Billy Petyarre
an early Michael Jagamara Nelson
an early Lily Sandover
Dorsey Smith
40 “Bunda” paintings from the Northern Territory,
and hundreds more.

Catalogue of Keeping Place Art Collection

On 14 May 2009, a catalogue of the all of the artworks in the Syron’s collection was finished by the not-for-profit organisation & volunteers, headed by Rona Wade, Executive Director and CEO, UNILINC Limited, online.


The catalogue of 547 artworks has now been valued by Adrian Newstead, ex-CEO of Deutscher-Menzies Auctioneers, and Director/Owner of Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Bondi NSW.

It also includes never-published photographs taken by Elaine Pelot-Syron (nee Kitchener) that document events, portraits and Sydney’s history over the last thirty years.

Mum Shirl, leading a protest marsh in the 1980sFigure 1. Unpublished photo by Elaine Syron,
‘Mum Shirl Leading the Land Rights Rally’, 1980s

The acquisition of the Syron Collection will provide a significant foundation for the important cultural archive that the Keeping Place and Cultural Centre will host.

 Judgement by his peers

Figure 2. Gordon Syron, ‘Judgement By His Peers’, 1978


Space Requirements

A Keeping Place and Cultural Centre with the quality of artwork planned, will require a significant and prominent space, somewhere close to the Redfern community, but accessible to public transport, to allow access to other Aboriginal communities and the general public.

The space will need to accommodate large exhibitions, host workshops and educational programs, have facilities to sell art and other products and provide adequate office space to the administrative staff.

A Sustainable future

    • Start up costs need to negotiated.
    • Terri Janke and Jeremy Morse have agreed to produce a contract for copyright, etc.

Next Steps Identified in 2008

  1. Solidify the vision and finalise business plan
  1. Start campaign to raise community awareness, attract sponsors and gain support

                                                                 i.     develop list of supporters

                                                                ii.     develop e-mail list

                                                               iii.     approach Indigenous media

  1. Scope possible funding options for a space to house the Cultural Centre (NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Indigenous Land Council, NSW State Government, City of Sydney Council)
  1. Scope possible funding opportunities for the funding of the purchase of the collection (NSW Aboriginal Land Council, NSW State Government, Rio-Tinto Foundation, other philanthropic organisations)
  1. Scope possible funding options for adminstrative positions (DEEWR, Indigenous Business Australia, Arts Council)
  1. Gather letters of support from people in the Aboriginal community, politicians, and the arts community

Work Number 1 in the Syron Collection


Gordon Syron, 2002
Gordon Syron, The Dreaming Man, 2002
Catalogue number 1
Title of painting The Dreaming Man
Year 2002
Name of artist Gordon Syron
Owner of painting Artist’s collection
Medium Oil on canvas
Measurements 50 x 45 cm
Framed/Unframed Framed

Story:  The first of a series on how a traditional Aboriginal comes ‘to Redfern’, to the ‘big smoke.’ He comes from the ‘bush’, to get a job, to see relatives and friends, to see Sydney and does he get a shock, at all them things. The living conditions are better at home. He is caught in the crossroads of life, stranded, no money to get back home, no hope even for a job and what is left? If he stays in Redfern then the chance of going to jail is great. He can then have drugs and alcohol under police supervision. The Dreaming Man is lost in time, the poor bastard.

Additional comments by Gordon Syron: There are Dreaming Aboriginal Women too. Not just men. Kids, the whole lot too. There are a lot of Aboriginal people who dream. The truth is they used to own all this land. You gotta have a dream or you don’t go nowhere. “The Dreaming Man” was created from many different perspectives. There is a sadness about this first one. Southern Cross shows it is Australia. The Waratah shows it is New South Wales. I used to see the Waratah on my brother Kevin’s boxing shorts. He held the NSW featherweight title.

Exhibition History:  First shown in 2002, at “Reconcilation,” Gordon Syron Solo Exhibition at Black Fella’s Dreaming Aboriginal Art Gallery & Museum, Darlinghurst (Sydney NSW). Then shown in 2003 in “Private Clubs & Politics,” Gordon Syron Solo Exhibition and Retrospective, curated by Sheryl Connors, Indigenous Programs Manager Australian Museum, Sydney NSW. And in 2004 it was shown in “A Retrospective,” Gordon Syron Solo Exhibition opened by Jody Brown, Director of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

History of this Proposal

This Proposal document emerged from the work of a committee of mostly Aboriginal people, who met under the leadership of Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor during 2007, at “The Shed”, Wilson Street, Darlington NSW.

The committee was made up of many close friends and supporters of Gordon and Elaine Syron. One of the most significant achievement of this committee was their recommendation to the Syrons to transition the name of the project from Black Fella’s Dreaming Aboriginal Art Gallery Musuem to the much shorter and simpler Keeping Place.

The original version of this Proposal was authored by Prof Larissa Behrendt in 2007 and 2008.

It was amended in 2008 for a Petition that was to be submitted to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, but was never completed due to him being replaced as Prime Minister.

This Proposal was updated in November 2014, under the direction of Gordon + Elaine Syron.

For more information about the Syron Collection

Gordon + Elaine Syron
Keeping Place
PO Box 295 | St Peters NSW 2044 | Australia
e: elainesyron@hotmail.com
w: 0411 725 981     international: +61 411 725 981

Black Fairy logo


Black Fella’s Dreaming Aboriginal Art Gallery Museum

This article was written by artist Gordon Syron in 2007, and was originally published online at http://artnews.com.au/details.php?e=1219

Black Fella’s Dreaming includes both an Aboriginal Art Gallery which has both contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art for sale as well as an Aboriginal Art Museum comprising

  • countless artworks,
  • sculptures,
  • installations,
  • a Hall of Fame and kitsch history,
  • White Art-on-Black Art and oral histories,
  • artifacts,
  • books,
  • articles,
  • ceramics, art & crafts,
  • photographs,
  • plus collections of historic t-shirts and tea towels.

Black Fella’s Dreaming Gallery and Museum is free-standing and not connected to any institution and is not down the wing or in the basement of a building. It was first housed in Darlinghurst Gallery and moved to an old granary shed in Bangalow, that had continuous floods and brown snakes, rats, mice and spiders. This collection represents 30 to 40 years of art and memorabilia.

Unfortunately due to a lack of funding, the Black Fella’s Dreaming Museum and Gallery has closed and is now in storage. The museum has been moved back to Sydney to increase its profile.   It is currently being catalogued and valued by  Bonhams & Goodmans.  We have agreed to sell one half of our museum at an auction on May 9th, 2006. A catalogue will be available from the third week of April from Bonhams & Goodmans of Double Bay.

I still hope one person could buy the collection, a philanthropist or organisation who will continue the museum as a non-profit social enterprise employing Aboriginal people. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if a person came along and bought the whole museum and turned it over to the Taree Aboriginal Community, whose history is so traumatic.  In 1999, Peter Smith, Aboriginal Liaison Officer of the Taree Hospital told me the cross was burned on his lawn and he had 5 children.

Another idea would be to put the museum at Redfern. I believe there are people, real people out there who care and who would put their money where they think it best to combat and expose the truths of Aboriginal History. One installation is The Wall of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and What causes Aboriginal Deaths in Custody? There must be a person who cares enough to create real Aboriginal jobs, jobs for Aboriginal Curators and Aboriginal Security Guards and Aboriginal Clerks and Aboriginal Storytellers and Aboriginal Artists.  Many people have told me they care but do not know what to do.

  • I ask you “Who owns Aboriginal History?”
  • Who owns the stories that our artworks tell?
  • What happens to the artworks that these investors collect?

Aboriginal people should collect our stories.  Djon Mundine recently asked these questions at an exhibition at the Lismore Regional Gallery, and if you contact them I’m sure they will tell you more of what he said.

Anyway it is time that Aboriginal people owned their own art and stories and history and memories, before they are lost forever.

All we have left are these stories, as Big Bill Nedjie of the Northern Territory, Kakakdu said many times, “I hope you can hold onto this story”.

Please contact us if you are interested or have any ideas of people or organisations who might be.  The Koorie Mail and the National Indigenous Times have published articles. An article was published in the Byron Bay Echo newspaper on this subject.

Aboriginal Art has long been exploited by the white man. One installation in our museum tells the History of Dots and did you know it started only in 1972?

The importance of Aboriginal-owned Art Galleries has not yet been appreciated and honoured. We have to break the cycle of Aboriginal people selling their paintings for $20 at the petrol station like Clifford Possum told me he used to do.

My satire has not been appreciated yet. This art gallery and museum has grown out of frustration and anger.  I refused to sell my paintings cheaply to galleries.

In 1997 the Darlinghurst Gallery first opened and began exhibiting Aboriginal Art and was also multi-cultural. They told me that collectors only want dots not even barks as much because they are not on canvas. So Aboriginal Art has evolved in the last 40 years to suit the buyer,it is a White Man’s World.

The Black Fella’s Dreaming Gallery always ensures all paintings are bought direct from the artist.

The name, Black Fella’s Dreaming came from one man’s dream, my dream. I have had so much encouragement from other Aboriginal artists.  As a matter of fact, one Aboriginal artist Darren Cooper told me that “You dream for all of us”.

The Black Fella’s Dreaming Museum & Gallery offers a wide range of Aboriginal Art ranging from traditional to contemporary, with a large body of brave Urban Aboriginal Art.

This precious and priceless contemporary collection explores themes such as the political, gay, historical and satirical. Other artists represented include Gordon Syron, Karla Dickens, Gordon Hookey (5 large canvases), Michael Nelson Jagamarra, Malcolm Jagamarra, James P. Simon, Bronwyn Bancroft, Clifford Possum, Gabrielle Possum, Daphne Wallace, Darren Cooper, Arone Ray Meeks, Shirley Amos, Nancy Taxof Balgo, Joshua Bangaar, Cedric Todd, Tim Ives, Robin Nganjmirra, Djawida Nadjongorle, Lily Sandover, George Milipirru, Lily Karadada, Carmel Nicholson, Yondee, David Rose, Judy Watson, Tracey Moffat, Michael Riley, Merv Bishop, Paddy Fordham Wainbarranga, Gary Jaggamarra, Gordon Pupangamirri, Roy Kennedy, Billy Petyarre, David Cameron, Abraham Dakgalawuy, Dennis McCarthy, Bede Tungatalum, Karen Casey, Pooraar, Jeff Samuels, Adam Hill and Emily Kngwarreye & 66 members of Emily’s family (Utopia) body paintings. There are many more that are not listed and we apologise to those not mentioned.

We also apologise that our website is not more developed and very very slow. We will have a section of art for sale.  Publications section has over 400 books. The authors of our books, are all listed together in alphabetical order. We will put the rest on as soon as possible.

When a painting has been sold as many have we have kept it as a record that it used to be in our museum. Eventually we plan to put how much it was sold for as a true documentary of the history of our museum.

Each and every piece in our museum will be listed with an image and a story. After the auction we intend to get a professional overhaul and will put back all the images that went missing in 2005/2006. Every image disappeared off all our website. We had no back-up and wanted to blame someone but…  Feel free to browse our exhibiting artists’ profiles and work by clicking on the artists and exhibitions buttons below.

artnews logoProudly supported by ARTnews.com.au