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.
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:
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:
James P. Simon
Shane “Yondee” Hanson
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
Kamahi Djordon King
Lindsay Bird Petyarre
Vivianne Gilbert Muiya
an early Michael Jagamara Nelson
an early Lily Sandover
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.
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.
Figure 2. Gordon Syron, ‘Judgement By His Peers’, 1978
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
- Solidify the vision and finalise business plan
- 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
- 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)
- 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)
- Scope possible funding options for adminstrative positions (DEEWR, Indigenous Business Australia, Arts Council)
- Gather letters of support from people in the Aboriginal community, politicians, and the arts community
Work Number 1 in the Syron Collection
|Title of painting||The Dreaming Man|
|Name of artist||Gordon Syron|
|Owner of painting||Artist’s collection|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Measurements||50 x 45 cm|
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
PO Box 295 | St Peters NSW 2044 | Australia
w: 0411 725 981 international: +61 411 725 981