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In Woiwurrung language, Yalingwa refers to day and light. It’s an apt word to title a new initiative between Creative Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Announced last week, the initiative creates three roles for Indigenous curators split into two-year contracts in which the curator will be embedded within a corresponding institution. Three major exhibitions will be held biennially in 2018, 2020 and 2022, across the two institutions, and three one-year Artist Fellowships will allow Indigenous artists to develop new work. The initiative was put together by Creative Victoria in collaboration with the two galleries and in consultation with Elizabeth Liddle, former manager of Indigenous Partnerships at Creative Victoria and the Wurundjeri Council. The program has also appointed an advisory group consisting of Indigenous members which ensures that Indigenous people speak for themselves and also so that appropriate protocol is put into practice.

Building on ACCA’s recent Sovereignty exhibition, it’s an exciting time to be building relationships and allowing for more self-determination in the arts. As ACCA’s Artistic Director and CEO, Max Delany states, “We have always seen Sovereignty as an important first step in a longer-term process. We were very keen to consolidate and build upon that to establish more enduring outcomes and opportunities. Sovereignty provided an opportunity to engage with Indigenous communities, artists, curators and form an advisory group, and to collaborate with First Nations practitioners through public programs and exhibitions, giving an important platform within ACCA and for our audiences.”

TarraWarra Art Museum will be a prime site for the Yalingwa initiative as it takes the exhibition to the outer-metropolitan area of Melbourne.

Healesville itself was the site of Coranderrk, and it gives the opportunity to respond to both that, and to the living culture and histories of Wurundjeri people. The gallery has hosted several solo exhibitions by Indigenous Australians—most recently, Yhonnie Scarce’s Hollowing Earth. TarrraWarra Museum of Art Director, Victoria Lynn is excited at the opportunities that this will bring to the work that the museum has been doing with Indigenous peoples in the region: “Over the last five years we’ve forged early important links with the Wurundjeri elders and with descendants from Coranderrk which existed 15 minutes from here and Yalingwa will consolidate and build upon our ongoing engagement with art by First Nations people in Australia. What I think is really unique about this initiative is that it gives an opportunity for artists, curators and exhibition makers to really thrive and feature South East Australian people within a national context.”

The first curator appointed to the program is former Koorie Heritage Trust curator and Aboriginal Projects Coordinator at Craft, Hannah Presley, who recently co-curated Every Second Feels Like a Century with Debbie Pryor at West Space. Presley will be working with ACCA to develop the first Yalingwa exhibition to open in 2018 and Max Delany says that “her role builds ACCA’s curatorial team, and it’s great to have her involvement in the program, and new perspectives within the organisation.” There’s no doubt that Presley’s presence within the institution will allow for a fuller approach to working across culture. Yalingwa hopes to bring this to TarraWarra, to its artist and curator opportunities, and to the rest of Australia as an example of best practice.

Sarah Werkmeister