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Future of major Aboriginal Art collection in danger

Aboriginal activists and artists gathered at Chapel by the Sea last Saturday to save one of Australia’s major Aboriginal art collections. The future of Gordon Syron’s famous collection is in danger of being split up and scattered unless enough money and space can be found to maintain it reports Nicholas Jordan in Bondi View of 14 July 2011.

Mr Syron said the collection represented the truth of Australia’s history and if separated would only prolong the problems of Australian society.“It will disintegrate .It will be like the Middle East. The problem will go on forever,” Mr Syron said.

“You need to represent the truth.”

Speakers at Saturday’s meeting stressed the importance of keeping the collection together because it respresents a catalogue of Aboriginal history and culture.

The future of the collection has been uncertain since Mr Syron’s controversial eviction from his warehouse in late 2010.

One of the speakers at the event, Aboriginal pastor Ray Minniecon, said the collection not only painted the beauty of Australia but also the pain of its past.

“This is our Picasso,” he said. “We should be doing everything we can to worship this legacy.”

Co-organiser of Saturday’s event, Reverend John Queripel, said the meeting was to force those with the resources and the money to find a space for the collection.

“We are here to apply a little pressure to the NSW Government to find a place to house this art.

“There is plenty of money for an NRL grand final but not for this,” he said. ”We need to keep the pressure on to keep this collection together.”

Law Professor from the University of Technology Larissa Bahrendt was shocked there is no space for such an important catalogue of Australian culture and history.

“It seems extraordinary . . . we don’t have a major cultural space for Aboriginal art nationally,” she said.

“We don’t have the infrastructure that supports Aboriginal history, culture and art.”

Ex-ABC Journalist, Jeff McMullen, spoke about how Aboriginal history art gets neglected by society and with it Australian history.

“We don’t have the space for even a tiny per cent of this collection. It is the character of the country. Irony is, here in the homeland you have to search for it,” he said.

“There is not a space where you can understand Aboriginal history, truth.”

Prof. Margo Neale, Principal Indigenous Advisor and Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia, who also spoke at the event, said logistically it will be near impossible to house the collection in a major gallery due to its size.

“But it doesn’t have to be physically or tangibly together,” she said.

“We’re in the 21st century, it can be digitally catalogued.”

Mr Syron said it would be fantastic if the collection could be digitalised but the art’s power to tell the truth of Australian history would be lost if it was split up.