Wotjobaluk, Djubagalk and Jadawadjali woman Gail Harradine on the Big Brekky Show

Wotjobaluk, Djubagalk and Jadawadjali woman Gail Harradine is the curatorial manager and exhibition curator for Seen and Unseen: Expressions of Koorie Identity is an exhibition run by Koorie Heritage Trust (KHT) bringing together artwork from several exhibitions from the 1990s, at a time when many indigenous artists struggled to have their work acknowledged. Gail is my guest on Big Brekkie this morning around 8.05am.

First Nations artists from South East Australia have long faced struggles with being seen.

Gail Harradine, who is also a teacher and artist, said the exhibition was about acknowledging that indigenous artists from southeast Australia had struggled with being seen.

Artists include: Maree Clarke; the late Ellen Jose; Aunty Rachel Mullett; the late Aunty Connie Alberts Hart; Lisa Kennedy; Donna Leslie; Dr Treahna Hamm; Karen Casey; Sonja Hodge; and Gayle Maddigan. Other significant artists from that time, include the late Lin Onus; Ray Thomas; Lyn Thorpe; and the late Les Griggs.

Additional artists include: Vicki Couzens, the late Len Tregonning, James Henry, Kent Morris and Sandra Aitken.


The Koorie Heritage Trust acknowledges the assistance of the Women’s Art Register in bringing this exhibition together.

The Koorie Heritage Trust is proud to acknowledge exhibition partners Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne, and the Indigenous Visual Arts and Industry Support Program.

Seen and Unseen: Expressions of Koorie Identity opens Saturday 7 August until 21 November 2021. Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Federation Square. www.koorieheritagetrust.com.au

As a Wotjobaluk, Djubagalk and Jadawadjali woman, Ms Harradine along with fellow artist and Gamilaroi woman, Dr Donna Leslie, were among the first Koorie students to go through fine art studies at The University of Melbourne in the ‘90s. Ms Harradine said growing up, she still remembered seeing the bones of Aboriginal people on display at museums and recalls the stories of her relatives who grew up on missions where every aspect of their lives was controlled by white people, while creativity was shunned.

But while at university, she became part of a strong First Nations arts and culture community.

“To the broader community, we may have been invisible as to our culture, identity and art practice, but together we felt empowered to make change,” she said. Seen and Unseen will bring together artwork from the Can’t See for Lookin’ exhibition, KHT’s collection, archival material, oral history recordings along with artwork from other significant artists of the time.

Ms Harradine said the exhibition would also give voice to younger identities that were equally strong, resilient, and significant.

“Often when I was talking with people, they mention working around the kitchen table, it’s a huge theme. I think that importance of sharing knowledge and being able to be creative is a huge part of the exhibition and not being oppressed by the assumptions people hold,” she said.

Artists include Maree Clarke, the late Ellen Jose, Aunty Rachel Mullett, the late Aunty Connie Alberts Hart, Lisa Kennedy, Donna Leslie, Dr Treahna Hamm, Karen Casey, Sonja Hodge and Gayle Maddigan. Other significant artists from that time include the late Lin Onus, Ray Thomas, Lyn Thorpe and the late Les Griggs.

Seen and Unseen: Expressions of Koorie Identity opens Saturday, August 7 until November 21, 2021. Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Federation Square. koorieheritagetrust.com.au •


Part of this story is by Spencer Fowler Steen.