Every day, 10am to 5pm Tuesday 14 December 2021 to Friday 25 February Except Sunday 19 December 2021, Monday 20 December 2021, Saturday 25 December 2021, Sunday 26 December 2021, Monday 27 December 2021, Saturday 1 January, Sunday 2 January and Monday 3 January
In November 1973, at the age of 25, Gillian and Watson McAllister emigrated to Sydney, Australia from Glasgow, Scotland.
After a year in Sydney they bought a Kombi van and set off on their ‘adventure of a lifetime’ around Australia. They headed north, just before cyclone Tracey destroyed Darwin, and washed up in Perth where they lived for the next 15 years.
In 1990, with Gillian’s long-service leave from the WA Education Dept, they resumed their journey round Australia and drove their old Land Rover to Kalgoorlie and Adelaide, before heading north to Alice Springs and back to Darwin. Before too long, with their skills and experience, they became the Heads of Girls Boarding and Boys Boarding respectively at ‘the jewel in the crown’ for Aboriginal education in those days, Kormilda College in Darwin. There were 360 boarders when the school was full – close to 300 were Aboriginal children from all over the Northern Territory, many from remote communities in Arnhem Land and around the Central Desert.
Gillian and Watson were therefore responsible for approximately 120 students in each of their houses. This started their interest in Indigenous Australian culture – They loved the kids and met their families when they came “up to town”. They even hosted a few parents and artists in the available bedsits in the dorms. Mervin Rubuntja and his family became special friends. Mervin was an artist-in-residence for a short period of time.
Through their work, the McAllisters went on to visit Oenpelli, Maningrida, Markolijban, the Tiwi Islands (Milikapiti and Pularumpi), Yuendumu, Nyirrpi, Willowra, Lajamanu, Alice Springs, Amoonguna, Ti-Tree, Kalkarindji, Bulman, Barunga, Minyerri, Numbulwar, Borroloola, Ngukurr, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Pepperminarti, Timber Creek, Pigeon Hole. They attended the Barunga Festival, local football matches on the Tiwi Islands, and sporting days at Yuendumu; and they arranged for Cathy Freeman and the members of Yothu Yindi to visit and inspire the children in their care.
Everywhere they went, they were welcomed by community leaders and parents because they looked after their children. In many communities, they spent most of their modest salary at the art shop while other pieces in their collection were gifted as thanks for looking after their children, though they never had enough walls to hang them all. Their love of people and their art became a touchstone of the lives of these two Scottish transplants to our shores.
Now both 73 years of age, they have moved into a small apartment. Gillian and Watson are selling the art and artefacts collected over a lifetime, in the hope that others will love them as much as they have. They cherish the memories of their years in Darwin, and their bond with the kids, now adults, extends to their children and grandchildren - a bond that lasts forever.
Amongst the collection are Hermannsburg watercolours, Tiwi and Arnhem Land art, as well as paintings and artefacts from the central Desert, Queensland, and Western Australia.
Cooee Art is operating under NSW Health guidelines and is a Covid safe venue. You are invited to attend in person, providing proof of double vaccination.