Looking Through Windows: A multimedia Aboriginal history and art exhibition

It started with a yarn that was transformed into a poem and grew into a video documentary, a community exhibition with a one-act play, opera piece and travelling exhibition.

Looking Through Windows: tablelands, the coast to outback NSW is an oral history, artistic and multimedia project exploring the removal, dispossession and ‘protection’ of Aboriginal people in New South Wales and parts of Queensland and South Australia.

Led by Dr Lorina Barker from the University of New England (UNE), the travelling exhibition will show at the University of Newcastle’s Gallery from 25 March to 3 June 2022.

Talks, gatherings and classes are also planned for local Indigenous communities and groups, schools and university students and a weaving workshop and performance, on the opening night, for the general public.

“The exhibition has come full circle using different artistic mediums, including oral history, filmmaking, photography, music, performance, as a way of expressing our history, culture and knowledge,” Dr Barker said.

Its genesis came from a discussion Dr Barker had with her grandmother in 2006.

“I was yarning with Nan about what it meant to be taken from Country and I wrote a poem about it. With her endorsement, I read that poem at the Yaama Cultural Festival held in Bourke in 2006 and it took off from there.”  

A community effort 

The project is extensive and has engaged community members from the New England region, including the Dunghutti, Anaiwan, Gomeroi, Gumbaynggirr and Banbai, and Northwest NSW including the Ngemba, Muruwari, Gamilaraay, Barkindji and Burrabindja (community members).

Descendants of the Wangkumara, Kooma and Kunja people from southwest QLD, and the Adnyamathanha from the Ikara-Flinders Ranges in South Australia, now residing in Bourke and Brewarrina, have also been involved.

The project began as a series of OnCountry Gatherings with multimedia workshops funded by the Australian Government through the Indigenous Language and Arts (ILA) program.

For two years, between 2017–2018, Elders would gather to share stories about growing up and living on the missions, reserves and fringe camps in the areas around Tibooburra, Wanaaring, Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett, Weilmoringle, Goodooga and Engonnia in Northwest NSW, and in the New England and Northern Tablelands in Armidale, Tamworth, Walhollow, Quirindi,  Inverell, Tingha, Guyra, Uralla, and Walcha.

These Elders’ Gatherings are part of a cultural methodology developed and used by Dr Lorina Barker providing a safe, creative and cultural space for remembering and sharing or ‘yarning’.

The methodology is designed to foster a practice where Aboriginal people manage their own stories, images, voices and artworks by taking control of how their stories are recorded and represented.

Creative outcomes from this project include a CD and exhibition catalogue and have been presented as oral history and multimedia exhibitions and performances at the New England Regional Art Museum (Armidale) in 2017, Brewarrina Visitor Information and Exhibition Centre and 107 (Redfern, Sydney) in 2018.

An online exhibition is planned for 2022 on the Online OnCountry Gallery of Taragara Aboriginal Corporation’s website

Looking Through Windows is a significant outcome of an Australian Research Council Indigenous Discovery project, The NSW Aboriginal Protection / Welfare Board 1883-1969: A History, led by UoN’s Emeritus Professor John Maynard and Professor Victoria Haskins, Co-Directors of Purai Global Indigenous History Centre.

Its ongoing development evolved through a partnership between Community and Taragara Aboriginal Corporation, the University of New England and the NSW Government through Create NSW Touring grant program.

Event opening 

The Looking Through Windows exhibition opens at the University Gallery, University of Newcastle on Friday 25 March, beginning with a performance at the Wollotuka Institute at 5.30pm.

Performers will walk guests to the University Gallery, close by, for a formal opening at 6pm. Registrations on Eventbrite are encouraged.


For enquiries regarding the project and its history:
Lorina Barker
Email: lbarker3@une.edu.au 

Image: OnCountry Gathering, by Erin Brown 

Associated events:
  • Opening: Friday 25 March 5.30pm Wollotuka Institute, outside rear area; official opening University Gallery 6pm, 7.30pm close.
  • Community Lunch: Saturday 26 March 11.30am –2.30pm, University Gallery, Callaghan Campus, UoN (invited guests only).
  • Weaving Workshop and BBQ: Monday 28 March 10am–12.30pm, BBQ 12.30-2pm, Wollotuka Institue, Callaghan Campus, UoN. Registration only. (contact: Hannah.Pipe@newcastle.edu.au)
  • Maps and Dreams: Aboriginal-Colonial Relationships in Australian History Masterclass: Monday 28th March 5–6pm, University Gallery, Callaghan Campus, UoN (HIST3621 students and invited guests only.
  • Schools’ Days: Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 March 10am –2pm, University Gallery, Callaghan Campus, UoN (contact: shaw@newcastle.edu.au)
  • Looking Through Windows Exhibition: Wednesday 30 March–Friday 3 June, Gallery Hours: Wednesday– Friday, 10am–5pm, Saturdays, 12–4pm (or contact Gallery to visit by appointment universitygallery@newcastle.edu.au).