2011 Indigenous Research Fellowship

Dr Brenda Croft

Dr Brenda Croft, the recipient of the 2011 NFSA Indigenous Research Fellowship, is related to the Gurindji/Malgnin/Mudpurra peoples from Kalkaringi/Daguragu in the Northern Territory.

Brenda L Croft was born in Perth and since 2009 has lived in Adelaide where she is a lecturer at the University of South Australia. From 2002-09 she was Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. There she curated the inaugural National Indigenous Art Triennial Culture Warriors among other national and international exhibitions and projects. Brenda Croft has also been active in the arts and cultural sectors since the mid-1980s as an artist, administrator, curator, writer, lecturer and consultant. As an artist, she has exhibited extensively since 1985, in numerous international exhibitions and residencies, with her work represented in major public and private Australian and international collections. In 1995 she was awarded a Master of Art Administration from the UNSW College of Fine Arts and received a UNSW Alumni Award in 2001. In 2009, she received an Honorary Doctorate in Visual Arts from the University of Sydney in acknowledgment of her contribution to contemporary Indigenous art and culture.

'The NFSA Indigenous Fellowship enables me to research material relating to my community in the Northern Territory, particularly in relation to the pastoral industry,’ she writes. 'It is intended that this material will eventually be made available on a community-owned and directed website, accessible to interested people.’

Brenda Croft is Co-ordinator of the Gurindji Freedom Day, which is commemorated on 26 August each year. The Gurindji Walkoff was initiated by Gurindji/Malgnin leader Vincent Lingiari on 23 August 1966 and lasted until 1974, an event which lit the fire that became the national land rights movement.

Brenda Croft calls her NFSA project Still in my mind: Gurindji experience, location and visuality. It takes inspiration from the words of revered Gurindji elder and kadijeri (senior law man) Vincent Lingiari, ‘that land … I still got it on my mind’, a profound statement reiterating his deep commitment to his Gurindji/Malgnin peoples and their customary homelands on Wave Hill in the Northern Territory. On 23 August 1966, Lingiari led the ‘Gurindji Walkoff’ commencing an 8-year-long strike by Aboriginal stockmen and their families working at Wave Hill Station, owned by British Pastoral Company Vesteys. A retelling of this story from a specifically Gurindji perspective forms the basis of this project.

Brenda L Croft is a direct descendant of this senior Gurindji/Malgnin elder and this, and extended Gurindji familial relationships underline the significance of this project in ensuring that living family members maintain Indigenous cultural practices of obligation and responsibility for transmitting knowledge through kinship connections.

To develop Gurindji-specific visual documentation of landscape, people, kinship and culture, Brenda Croft will draw on the NFSA archives to provide a new intercultural form of community-based art practice as a platform for on/in country research and community education. She also aims to produce a unique model of Aboriginal research that proceeds from and develops internationally recognised accounts of Indigenous culture as a mode of community capacity building, which while Gurindji-specific, can be reproduced elsewhere.

The NFSA Indigenous Fellowship will enable Croft to access archival material relating to the Gurindji Walkoff in the 1960s and further material – audio and visual – relating to the pastoral industry in northern Australia. Croft will also be accessing archives of the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

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