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Video clip synopsis – Northern Territory Art Gallery Curator Franchesca Cubillo talks about the life of acclaimed Arrente artist Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) and his citizenship granted in 1957.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 5min 45sec
Tags - Aboriginal art, aborigines, artists, civics and citizenship, Indigenous Australia, Learning Journey Indigenous, politics, racism, referendum, social class, social justice, see all tags

play Warning - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when watching this program as it may contain images of deceased persons.

Albert Namatjira

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About the Video Clip


Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year a series of forums is held. At each forum a panel of three secondary students, selected from schools Australia wide, interview a leading decision-maker on an important current issue. The panel members participate in a ‘learning journey’ to explore the issues and prepare for the forum. This involves researching the issue being explored by the forum and interviewing relevant people in the community. Panellists also develop interview techniques in workshops at Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia. The interviews are then recorded in the Museum’s Studio in front of a live student audience.

This clip comes from a 2007 forum on ‘Indigenous representation’. The guest interviewed was former Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, The Hon. Mal Brough MP. Panellists were NT Year 12 students Brendon Kassman, Danielle Lede and Esmeralda Stephenson from Casuarina Senior College, Darwin. The learning journey involved students exploring the collection of Aboriginal art and material culture at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin and interviewing senior curator Franchesca Cubillo. They also interviewed Douglas Bon, skin group brother of Eddie Mabo and Marion Scrymgour, Member for Arafura in the Northern Territory Parliament. The learning journey also included a visit to Gunbalunya (Oenpelli) Indigenous community in West Arnhem Land and an interview with the area’s local elders.

Background Information


The European colonisation of Australia has had a great impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Many meetings between European and Aboriginal cultures were unsuccessful: Aboriginal disenfranchisement and the effects of white society resulted in inequalities and tensions. By as early as 1869 the colonies began to remove Aboriginal children from their families in an effort to assimilate them and ‘protect’ them.

During Federation and the drafting of the nation’s constitution, reference to Aboriginal people was made only twice: Aboriginal people were to be managed by state authorities, not the Commonwealth, and they were not to be counted in the national census. National discussion between 1910 and the 1960s debated the wisdom of indigenous welfare being managed in this way. This debate intensified during the 1960s. Key events of the 1960s that informed the growing national awareness of the state of indigenous people in Australia included the Yolngu people’s 1963 presentation of the Yirrkala bark petition to the Commonwealth government, the 1965 freedom ride and the 1966 Wave Hill walk-off.

In 1967 a national referendum was held and 90.77% of Australian people voted “yes” to give Aboriginal people the right to be counted in the census and granted the Commonwealth the capacity to legislate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Initially, change occurred slowly following the ‘67 Referendum, and partly as a result the Aboriginal tent embassy was erected on the lawns of the Parliament House in 1972. By 1976 the Northern Territory Land Rights Act had been passed; later in 1994 the landmark Commonwealth Native Title Act was also passed and in 1990 ATSIC was established as the peak body for indigenous Australians.

In more recent times the former Howard government introduced the Amendment to Native Title Act in 1998 and ATSIC was disbanded in 2005 due to allegations of mismanagement. Under the Howard government ‘practical reconciliation’ was emphasised with a particular focus on indigenous health, education, housing and employment. An increasing concern over rates of crime and abuse in indigenous communities led to the Northern Territory intervention policy. In 2008 under the newly elected Rudd Labor government a national apology to the children of the stolen generation took place.

Classroom Activities


Before you watch

  • As a class view some works by Albert Namatjira and some works by Papunya Tula artists (these artists were among the first to use western paints and canvases to portray traditional indigenous designs). Discuss the differences and similarities. Discuss the reasons why Namatjira may have started painting in a western style.
  • Discuss the 1967 referendum and the restrictions indigenous people lived under prior to the referendum (see National Museum of Australia: Collaborating for Indigenous Rights)

While you watch

Carefully watch the video clip and list three examples given by Franchesca Cubillo of ways in which Namatjira was unable to assimilate into non-Indigenous society.

After you watch

Franchesca says that ‘art has been a really powerful way in which Aboriginal people have been able to assert their rights and to make statements about their place within this society as Aboriginal people but also as Australians.’ Do you agree that art is a valid and powerful way for groups to assert their rights and make statements? Identify and list other marginalised groups in society that also use art in this way. Do you think there may be a better way to express these opinions? Discuss this issue and write about 100 words expressing your opinion.

Further Resources


National Museum of Australia’s Talkback Classroom website

Australian Dictionary of Biography: Albert Namatjira