Biluny Babanya (white friends) 2015

POA

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This painting is about my grandmother, Mary Dowling (nee Latham) and one of her friends named Teeny who grew up together at St. Josephs Orphanage. My grandmother and her sister Dorothy were left at an Anglican Church by their estranged white father. Their mother was still alive and was too sick to stop him take their two youngest children. The Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph’s orphanage took them in to train and work as domestic servants. My grandmother, Mary was the elder of the two (on the right). They were left by their father when they were 12 & 9 years old because the law of the time said that “quarter caste women must marry white” and he didn’t want them marrying into their mother’s community of Badimaya people. There is a myth in my family that they were treated very well. They were often photographed as proof that the assimilation process was kind and just. These first nations children were stolen and taken away from their original sovereign mothers. My grandmother and my Aunty Dot both described this place to me and my mother. This orphanage was a place of slave labour and diminished these girl’s educational achievement. Both were made to work long hours in the laundry (where my grandmother was put to work) and the kitchen (where my Aunty was put to work). Teeny was one of the many non-Aboriginal girls who were raised at the orphanage as possibly a foundling. The Orphanage was racially segregated between black and whites for some of the time as it was the legal obligation of the orphanage to do so. My grandmother was allowed to make friends with class mates early on but her education was disallowed when she reached grade 6 and the white students went on to graduate with higher education certifications. Behind my grandmother is the roof of St. Vincent’s Foundling home where my grandmother worked from the age of 12 until she 21 when she was placed into a group house owned by the Church. The Church would charge rent to the group of Aboriginal girls who lived there and they were all expected to marry white men. This was expected under the laws of the time for all “quarter-caste” women to do so. Teeny and my grandmother remained friends until my grandmother passed away

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Dimensions 64 x 3 x 121 cm
Medium

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