First Nations artist Gerard Black: Bravery and change

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Artist Gerard Black moved away from sharing the stories of his Aboriginal heritage for a long period due to the prejudices and ignorance of others.

“I was painting when I was in my early teens and younger, and then I stopped because of all that ‘don’t tell people you’re Aboriginal’ narrative,” Gerard, 38, said.

“There were bad stereotypes to that, and advice that you won’t get certain jobs or won’t get certain opportunities.”

Gerard shared his story as he reflected on National Reconciliation Week and identified with its 2022 theme.

It urges Be Brave, Make Change. He was and he did.

“Three years ago when my son Oswald was born there was just this massive realisation that I can’t let him go through what I went through, and I couldn’t let him grow up not feeling proud of his culture – where he’s from and who his people are,” Gerard said.

“Then I knew the only way to do that was to be stronger in myself and be part of sharing everything I knew, just putting it out there and embracing it.”

As a result the proud Worimi man has found profound fulfilment using his art to help share the ancient stories of his heritage, and the shared history with non-Indigenous Australians – each work in its way a stepping stone on a Reconciliation journey.

“I guess that way of making change for me is like creating positive change and positive connections with my art in educating and talking to people and sharing stories,” he said.

“I want to do it to a point where non-Indigenous people feel as connected to the stories as we do. It’s like our joint history and our joint story, something that we share together.”

Gerard lives near Colac but grew up in Torquay and owns Tidal Tattoo studio in the town.

As Surf Coast Shire Council nurtures its first Reconciliation Action Plan, a work he created has been adopted to help symbolise the journey.

It portrays the green of the Otways and the blue of the ocean meeting at the beach. Footprints in the sand track from either end of the beach towards a middle ground which is for respectful meeting, deep listening and learning – a place where green shoots of Reconciliation might bud.

National Reconciliation Week runs from 27 May to 3 June, and Council will mark the week with a free community event on 31 May exploring and celebrating the Be Brave, Make Change theme.

Gerard Black will be part of the conversation, discussing his passion for Reconciliation and his art with Mayor Libby Stapleton.

The event will also feature Adnyamathanha woman and director and co-founder of Arranyinha Marsha Uppill, speaking on the theme of what it means to be an ally – educating yourself and helping to amplify First Nations voices.

Wadawurrung woman and cultural educator Corrina Eccles will share a Welcome to Country.

Cr Stapleton encouraged people to attend and said Reconciliation remains one of Council’s major priorities.

“Reconciliation Week opens important conversations and opportunities for learning, and challenges us to make change for the benefit of all Australians,” Cr Stapleton said.

“The more we know and understand the better equipped we will be to realise that ambition.

“This event will provide rich insight as we seek to be allies and elevate First Nations voices.”

The event will be held in Council’s Chambers from 5.30pm and bookings are essential via www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au/Reconciliation

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