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Indigenous scholar and designer Alison Page, Big hART creative director Scott Rankin, filmmaker and Martu man Curtis Taylor, Songlines lead curator Dr Margo Neale, with ABC RN presenter Paul Barclay, 16 November 2017

MATHEW TRINCA: For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mat Trinca. I’m the Director of the National Museum of Australia, and I’d like to start tonight, as always for events here at the Museum, by acknowledging that we meet on the lands of the Ngunnawal, Ngunawal, Ngambri peoples, who are the traditional custodians of this land.

I’m always grateful for the welcome and the generosity of spirit that they show to us here at the Museum, and the Museum community to be on their lands. I offer my respect to elders past, present and those of tomorrow. I also want – especially today, but, as is something that we pride ourselves on here – I want to extend that sense of respect and openness of this institution to all Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples who are with us today. Is that working okay, that mic for you? Is it all good? Great.

Tonight – it’s written down here – tonight we welcome a dynamic group of panellists to explore the epic issues embodied in our current breakthrough exhibition in Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters. It’s all true, but we actually have some of my favourite people in the world who are here tonight. They are all great advocates, not just for this show, but indeed for the work that happens in cultural institutions like this; representing the stories, the experiences, the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country, and I do thank them for joining us. Of course, our great host, our great friend of the Museum, Paul Barclay that, who’s here. I think in your last – is it your last gig in 2017?

PAUL BARCLAY: It’s the second-last of the year. Second-last of the year for me –

MATHEW TRINCA: For you?

PAUL BARCLAY: – but the last with the Museum.

MATHEW TRINCA: Yes, and the sadness about this, is that we hear that Paul is actually taking some time off next year. I think it’s unaccountable – why – how can people even do that? But he is doing it. I just want to say, before we start, a couple of words about Songlines. You know, over the years we’ve done work of which I think all of us here at the Museum are incredibly proud, in bringing both the stories of Indigenous Australia together with the stories of making of modern Australia.

Great traditions, great lines of human experience in this country that we think we have a responsibility to bring together, to a point of dialogue, a point of conversation and intersection, productively for us in the way that we move forward. I can honestly say in Songlines that I think we’ve reached another level in our way of both working with communities and also bringing those stories to public notice.

This project was initiated in 2010 by Anangu elders from the APY [Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara] lands in Central Australia. It’s been led all the way along by senior custodians of the Seven Sisters stories across the Central and Western deserts. There were two animating reasons for people in the communities to work so actively with us. One was that they wanted these stories recorded in ways that might be preserved for future generations; and indeed one of the proudest things about this work is that all the material that’s being gathered through the course of the production of the exhibitions is being invested in our Ara Irititja, the Indigenous-run archive in Central Australia.

Secondly, there’s a great openness and willingness of the people right across those lands, across the three great lands – Martu country, APY and Ngaanyatjarra lands – to open up the story for all Australians to share in. That’s a great gift in my opinion, and one that I take a great sense of responsibility to honour and do the very best we can with. I think the resulting exhibition that features 100 paintings and photographs, installations, and as Paul said better than me – in fact, these very dynamic media experiences – and you’ll hear from Curtis who’s been very involved in the production of those, and who has a great career of doing this work in this Museum and others.

I can’t wait to hear the reflections of our panellists tonight on this project. I do think these stories are absolutely elemental to our national story in this country. We should be so delighted that we live in a country that has such a long human history of storytelling, story-making, of culture, which is what storytelling is really, in place. It’s a great honour to be working in this museum at a time when we’re bringing this work to the public.

Welcome to Alison Page, Scott Rankin, Curtis Taylor and Margo Neale, and as I said a great welcome to our host Paul Barclay of ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], RN’s [Radio National] Big Ideas. Thank you, Paul.

[Applause]

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, thanks Mat. Welcome to the National Museum of Australia. It is a delight to be back here, as usual. It’s been a terrific year of cooperation with the Museum and some fabulous programming that’s come from it as well. Some terrific conversations, and we are about to have another one of them. I host Big Ideas on Radio National. It’s on air Monday to Thursday nights at 8pm, and you can download via podcast. We have a very big podcast following. If you don’t subscribe to us, give us a go, download it. You’ll find plenty of interesting stuff on there.

In 1992 I took a train from Melbourne that would eventually take me to my new home in Alice Springs, where I got my first job working for the ABC. It’s a long train ride – that one [where] you get the train to Melbourne and then you get the train from Adelaide to Alice [Springs] – The Ghan. You have plenty of time to read and contemplate. When you stare out the window, you watch the soil gradually change colour and you begin to appreciate the vastness of this amazing continent and the long history as well.

I’ve done that trip many times, but I look back on that first journey and cringe. Here I was, this whitefella from the city, armed conspicuously with a copy of Bruce Chatwin’s [The] Songlines to culturally prepare me for what lay ahead. Here is the book by the way, the book I took with me that’s a little bit the worse for wear. What a bloody cliché I was. A whitefella reading a book by another whitefella about an integral yet almost unknowable part of Aboriginal culture. The Dreaming, the foundational stories and lore of our first peoples.

How are we to understand the Songlines? Is it too elusive a concept for us, especially for us whitefellas to understand? Well, the National Museum of Australia’s Songlines exhibition tracks the Seven Sisters Songlines. This is an incredibly ambitious project initiated by the Anangu elders from the APY lands, the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in central Australia, and led by the senior Seven Sisters custodians from across the Central and Western deserts to talk about the Songlines project and songlines as storytelling.

We’ve got a great panel of guests tonight. As I said if you want to tweet throughout this conversation, please feel free. Let me introduce the panel to you. On my immediate left I have Alison Page, an Indigenous scholar and designer, a descendant of the Walbanga and Wadi Wadi people of the Yuin Nation, and an award-winning creative at the forefront of the contemporary Australian Aboriginal cultural movement.

Next to Alison, we have Scott Rankin, a writer and director who for 25 years has been the Creative Director of arts for social change organisation, Big hART. This year Big hART celebrates, with the Namatjira family, the return of Albert Namatjira’s copyright to his family after an eight-year campaign fighting for justice. [Applause] Well done Scott. A lot more to that story, another story indeed, but still a terrific outcome.

Next to Scott, Adjunct Professor Margo Neale, a Senior Indigenous Curator and Advisor to the Director of the National Museum. Next to Margo, Curtis Taylor: filmmaker, screen artist, young Martu leader. He’s an active member of the Western Desertland’s Aboriginal Council. Curtis was part of the crew and cultural liaison in the virtual reality art work Collisions. I can tell you, calling it a virtual reality art work doesn’t go anywhere near describing how incredible this is. It won an Emmy Award this year and it is truly incredible. Well done Curtis, fantastic work to you and the team. [Applause] Now showing here at the Museum.

Let’s kick off the conversation. I’ll come to you first Margo with the hardest question, first of all: what are the songlines? I mean, in one very simple sense, they are the shortest distance between two water holes, but there is so much more to it than that. In as concise a language as you can, can you explain the songlines to us? That is your challenge.

MARGO NEALE: First of all they’re inexplicable. And secondly, for the purposes of obviously doing a project like this and communicating something to people, you can’t say, ‘Sorry, it’s called Songlines, but I don’t know what it is.’ Really, at a sort of fundamental level, you can visualise it as pathways or corridors of knowledge that crisscross the continent, laid down over millennia. At another level, they are the knowledge system which governs all aspects of Aboriginal life and society. If you’ve heard the expression, ‘Our stories or history is written in the land’, then that’s the kind of embodiment of the sense of how it works by reading the land.

PAUL BARCLAY: Curtis, how do you understand the songlines as a young fella? If I was to ask you what the songlines meant to you, what would you say?

CURTIS TAYLOR: For me, it’s a history of the land where I come from, my local area, but also this universal view of country and connection between animals, earth, people. The whole cosmos of what it makes up. There’s songlines that are shared between local group, between certain individuals or between vast area of people, but also they can be composed from certain individuals any time and can make up the culture of that time.

PAUL BARCLAY: Alison?

MARGO NEALE: Can I just jump in?

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, sure. Just jump in – just quickly Margo.

MARGO NEALE: Just for those to understand, if there is some kind of resonance with the word ‘Dreaming’ or ‘Dreaming tracks’ or tjukurrpa. When you ask some of the people we work with what’s songlines, they say, ‘It’s tjukurrpa. It’s the law.’

PAUL BARCLAY: Do you understand the songlines Alison?

ALISON PAGE: Look, it makes my head hurt. The reason why it makes my head hurt and even though I’m an Indigenous woman, I was educated in a Western system. I think really I need to go through a process now of pretty much unlearning everything that I’ve learnt and just re-educating myself in that way. I think in Western education, in Western science and in Western knowledge systems, which are also living systems by the way, the categorisation of knowledge is what we are sort of all obsessed with.

Taxonomic classification of knowledge into – even with science – there’s a hundred different disciplines, whereas with songlines and the reason why I find it – I was reading the articles that are in the beautiful book that was produced. My head actually did hurt, because arts, the arts, philosophy, science; all of the sciences exist. The past, the present, the future all exist within songlines.

I think that’s why it’s called a maelstrom of knowledge that is hard for people to get their head around, because we have this propensity to want to kind of break it down into linear forms. Even with Bruce Chatwin, talking about it as a navigation system, that was read by people as like a map. To get from A to B, you sing the song, and it’s much more complicated than that.

PAUL BARCLAY: Although he did talk about how his understanding of the culture was that, the land was ‘sung into being’. As it was sung, it was created and that starts to get close. You know Scott, I’ve done a bit of a 360 [degrees] in my thinking about this, as a result of going along to the exhibition today. I’d always wondered whether or not, it was sacred knowledge in a sense. That songlines had this deep and profound meaning to Indigenous people, that us whitefellas could never understand and that it was perhaps even immaterial whether we could.

Now I understand that it’s fundamentally important for us whitefellas to understand it, because we occupy this continent together. These are the foundational stories of the continent and we should share in these amazing stories. Do you agree that we, and can we as whitefellas understand the songlines and what they mean?

SCOTT RANKIN: That’s a good question. I’d say two things. One, it is the physical and communicable face of the unknown in one sense, and it’s also like stand-up comedy in another, when you go to that exhibition. The quality of storytelling comes from 2000 generations, compared to ten generations in contemporary Australia and 38 generations since Shakespeare. This is shared-heart storytelling and beneath it are the unknowable, the private knowledge, which I think in another 500 to 1000 generations this continent will be sharing very deeply with everyone who lives here.

PAUL BARCLAY: We will come to the actual stories of the Seven Sisters in a moment, but before we do, I’m curious Curtis, why Martu elders supported the Seven Sisters songlines project. Why it was felt that this was an important project to support, to get the songlines out to the general public?

CURTIS TAYLOR: I think for this certain songline that the ladies – 30 odd years ago they had a convention I think in Kunawarritji Well 33 – and a lot of different Indigenous mob came from all over the Tri-State border and far as the west Pilbara where it started. They wanted to invite Ngarluma (or Nyangumarta) and Yinjibarndi ladies to lead the way. In the case of the Martu, they saw that it’s really important to share and preserve and record this knowledge for future generations, but also generations that have, maybe not learnt or picked up that knowledge and truly understand.

Yes, so a lot of Martu were really, really strong in bringing this songline to the forefront. In Wanman we call it [Indigenous word]. [Indigenous word] is like revealing what’s hidden in my dialect, and a lot of Martu people saw that, its need to be shared and need to be revitalised again between different people, so that it lives on through memories of people that remember it; and still have that visceral knowledge of that, but also new generations that are learning and wanting to learn and are hungry for it.

PAUL BARCLAY: Well, that’s crucial isn’t it? Passing this knowledge on to the younger generation, because you live within an oral storytelling culture. If those stories are not orally passed on to younger generations, those stories die and if the stories die, a part of your culture dies with those stories.

CURTIS TAYLOR: Yes, definitely. At the beginning you said some of these stories can be elusive, and now thinking in those kind of cases, that these stories can be elusive where if you don’t practise or re-learn them, then it’s lost forever.

PAUL BARCLAY: Margo, the songlines were also beginning to fragment, to be broken up I understand by pastoral leases, by mining and so on. Is the exhibition in part also a way of keeping them together and promoting them for the future?

MARGO NEALE: Yes. I’m just going to add to what Curtis said –

PAUL BARCLAY: Mic, your mic[rophone].

MARGO NEALE: – oh sorry. I know I have a loud voice. Just what Curtis said too, there’s this whole other idea that the country dies as well. If the culture dies and not activated, the country dies as John Bradley so aptly puts in the book he did. That leads to the preservation as you intimated earlier. The Anangu, particular Anangu elder David Miller in 2007 echoed very specifically, saying, ‘The songlines have all been broken up and we need you mob to help us put them back together again.’

The real concern is this generational transfer, because as we know the young of this time are very involved with their devices, and are not so keen on hanging out in the bush with the elders and thinking about it later. They are very proactively and strategically, I have to say – because a lot of these people are first contact people approaching places like museums and [the] Australian National University. It’s a big deal, right? We’re not renowned for being the best friends historically speaking, so it was a big deal and they were fearful.

The purpose was to use – now we’re talking about the archives – to use that fatal flaw of the Western archive, which is to freeze time, so they could get this material, document it, track it, put into Ara Irititja, a particular Aboriginal-managed archive; and so that when those young fellas come to their senses as I believe they would, and the elders are gone, they’d be able to access this material. That was a huge, huge thing. This is sort of a hybrid movement.

ALISON PAGE: It’s also extremely practical in the sense when you look at the demographics of Indigenous people across Australia, half of Aboriginal Australia is 24 years or younger, so this notion… I’d love to have grown up where I had the opportunity to sit under the tree with Auntie and learn all about my culture; but the truth is, Auntie has to sit under the tree with about 40 kids. She’d probably be traumatised about it to be honest.

Near where I live, near Kempsey, there are these 30-year-old grandmothers there. This whole idea of how culture is being sustained in communities – and you would know with Big hART’s work as well – is it does need revitalising with new medium. Digital medium is incredibly powerful for that, and so even if communities decide to put stories to sleep for a while until those protocols have been met or the youth have gone through their rights and they deserve the story, well they can revitalise them through the digital medium.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, it was striking to me that actually, we at the ABC are having that conversation at the moment about, we need to engage with young people in the form that they consume. Present our stories through mobile phone and through modern technology. In a sense, that’s what this exhibition is doing. It’s translating that knowledge and presenting it to us in the most modern form.

ALISON PAGE: In a new language.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, exactly, indeed. Margo, let’s just talk about the Seven Sisters story, songlines story. This is a story about how the land and stars are formed. It’s also a story – a saga really of an endless journey made by female ancestral beings, who are being pursued by a powerful mythological figure. It made me think when I was walking through the journey at the exhibition, is that women have been chased by blokes from the very beginning of time. [Laughter]

ALISON PAGE: 80,000 years.

PAUL BARCLAY: Some things never change. Can you just give us an overview of that, the Seven Sisters songline story?

MARGO NEALE: Well, not to be too conformist here and answer directly, I need to just refer to that digital culture, making culture cool –

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, sure.

MARGO NEALE: – cool for young people right? Curtis has a fabulous quote in there in case you didn’t see it, which says, ‘Like the old people we have a Dreaming too. Ours is a Dreaming with new technology. We will tell the oldest culture with the newest technology.’ Now I think that’s profound.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes.

MARGO NEALE: [This is] from a young fella who’s had to talk to the elders to get the story. This exhibition has some 20 pieces of multimedia, which the dome is the crescendo, the state of art. It’s all part of the story. The big story is – it is an epic saga – and it’s ancestral, it’s an archetypal narrative, all major civilisations have it. This one is about a shape-shifter or an ancestral being if you like, who for the purposes of the story, so people can remember it, takes on human values.

He is in pursuit of the Seven Sisters whom he’s looking to possess. In order to lure them to him he needs to transform himself into a whole range of different disguises, a little bit Shakespearean here. He turns into delectable food sources, desert, water of course, all the things they need; and shade trees under which the women will shade, and therefore he can lure them towards him. That’s only the base level. It’s really about the idea of the origin of the land, the explanation of the seasons, how to manage gender relationships appropriately. So it’s got other multiple layers, it’s not just that story, but thisstory –

ALISON PAGE: That was G-rated version. That was the Disney version. [Laughter]

MARGO NEALE: I just want to say in terms of the exhibition, the details of that template I’ve just described, change according to the changes of the land. From one desert to one rocky country to a sand dune country, it is different, because it created the land, a story like this. The land and the story become one and the same, and then it’s mapped into the people.

PAUL BARCLAY: The songlines are obviously a map as well. We’re talking about lines that move through three states, three deserts, across half a million square kilometres. They’re visually represented very well in the exhibition, it’s kind of hard to get a sense of it here on the radio, but the songlines essentially stretch across the whole continent, don’t they?

MARGO NEALE: Yes, the Seven Sisters story exists across the entire continent. Clearly we did the Central and Western deserts partially, but as also some of the elders – I think it was Nola Taylor – she says, ‘No, this story belong to the whole world, Ireland, Japan. The whole world has this story.’ And of course, when you think about the Orion [constellation] and Pleiades [star cluster] – and if there’s a scientist in here I might be counteracted – it’s my understanding that, because the Orion and Pleiades are visible in Northern and Southern hemispheres, this story goes everywhere. Subaru, Seven Sisters, it’s a star.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, so the encounters between the Seven Sisters and their ancestral pursuer become features of the land itself, reflected in the night sky as the Orion constellation and the Pleiades star cluster. So you get to see the connection between earth and the sky through the story. Scott, these are foundational stories. You’re a storyteller. It’s what you do for a living really, is tell stories. Why are these stories so important to us?

SCOTT RANKIN: I would put it like this, and using the words of Professor [Edward] Said who said that, ‘Nations are narrations and they’re always in transition.’ They’re always being told, whether it’s Curtis, in your traditions or in the traditions that have grown out of the Western, the Judeo-Christian traditions. It is always telling the story and the story has to be inclusive.

If you’re excluded from the narration, you won’t be part of the nation and you will be damaged or you’ll be left aside or you will be put on an island in the Pacific. Or you will end up seeing your children locked up in Australian prisons right now, where 50 per cent of all the children we lock up – forgive me Curtis – but are Aboriginal young people. That is, we shouldn’t be playing The Ashes. We should be telling the story of Australia’s injustice and the complexity of that injustice.

Narrations need to be told all the time, and yes in our education system we say, that STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] is important and it’s got to be Science and technology and English and Maths, but it’s STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics] that is vital, because if you don’t have the Arts in the education system, you won’t have storytellers and you will end up excluding people, damaging people and hurting people. It’s much harder to hurt someone if you know their story. That’s the main reason that the last ten generations have been vexed and at war essentially, on this continent with Curtis’s people, because it’s much easier to hurt someone when you exclude their story. It is critical. [Applause]

PAUL BARCLAY: If we lose those stories – Indigenous people have lost their land over the years as a result of colonisation, they’ve lost much more than that as well – if we lose these stories, it’s in a sense another form of genocide really, isn’t it?

SCOTT RANKIN: Do you mind if I jump in?

ALISON PAGE: Yes, sure.

SCOTT RANKIN: What concerns me is that in the luxury of the barista of Lonsdale Street or the superb cuisine of Fitzroy or Gertrude Street – or wherever in Melbourne et cetera, around the country – we tut-tut at the past, over our chai lattes and our beautiful pinots, because we can distance ourselves from the guilt of the moment that we live in now. The guilt is just one part of the equation, because there’s great celebration in living now as well. But I think for us we need to take responsibility for the moment that we’re in and the storytellers we are – it’s not exactly answering your question – and be willing to be absorbed into the country that we live in, and allow it to speak to us, which for predators like me: tall, white, cis males, who are running the globe; it’s very hard when you’re bred like a stallion. That sounds terrible. [Laughter] When you’re bred with this acute acumen for binary thinking, you can’t shut up. I noticed when we were sitting in the room preparing, it was hard for us to shut up, you and I. It’s something that we have to do, because we have to listen, like David Ireland said, to the belly of the country.

PAUL BARCLAY: Curtis, you’ve got any thoughts on that? On us whitefellas who won’t shut up? [Laughter]

CURTIS TAYLOR: I think in the future it will be different in the Northern Territory and top half of southern Australia. I can see already that my travels there – and in the Western Desert, in Western Australia – that you have not just, as a matter of speaking, language and being really deeply connected or invested in the learning of the land and the culture and the language.

There will be different generations coming up that are more multiracial. There will be Indigenous people having relations outside of their community, and those generations that come after that will be knowledge-keepers and storytellers of their ancestors, from their parents telling those stories again, and holding that really tight and not losing it.

I think it’ll just be more of a collective, Australian cycle of change, that it will be more grounded to the Nyaanyatjarra and Anangu, to the underground to where the land is. It’s going to be different in the future where a lot of speakers will maybe not look like me and not look like you.

MARGO NEALE: In other words you’ll be bred out. Just as there was a policy of breeding out black –

SCOTT RANKIN: I think that’s a really interesting point; breeding out, but –

MARGO NEALE: ‘Breeding them white’, it used to be. That’s the right expression.

SCOTT RANKIN: Curtis and I have worked in Roebourne, Curtis on a project that we’ve been running up there. Ieramugadu or Roebourne is the start of the story that you’re telling in the Museum. It is also media poverty porn candy for the contemporary media, using it to insist that we see Aboriginal Australians through a deficit lens rather than the asset at the place that we live, exactly what you’re talking about.

Roebourne has been seven years of teaching to me as a community. It’s [a] fantastic place. Our families who live there never lock the doors. Their children play happily. In the 60s when Lang Hancock and that family, Gina’s family saw the potential to become a dynasty of wealth. It was a community struggling and there were about 30 people who would turn up for law business. There’s thousands of people who’d turn up there to Woodbrook each year right now, and yet we do not tell that story, we insist that it’s much easy to have sympathy rather than envy, and we’ve got to stop.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes. Roebourne being the place actually where the [Seven Sisters] songlines – I think it’s where it’s agreed that the songlines could begin.

ALISON PAGE: Yes.

MARGO NEALE: Yes. No disagreement at all. Yes.

PAUL BARCLAY: Another thing that strikes me about these stories is their epic quality, epic in a universal sense. I don’t know whether you’ve got any thoughts on this Alison. We grew up with the Greek myths and legends and we grew up with the understanding of Narcissus and the Oedipus, and what they tell us and help us to understand about the modern world. Yet we haven’t grown up with the foundational stories of our own land.

ALISON PAGE: Yes, which is an absolute tragedy, because I think if you’ve got a culture that survived for 80,000 years, that survived the last glacial movement, the last ice age essentially, Aboriginal people abandoned 80 per cent of the land mass. That’s a sophisticated understanding of being able to read the climate for a start, and then being incredibly adaptable to be able to do that in order to survive.

Also only working 15 hours a week, and using the rest of the time to make art and to connect with one another. We were called the savages. Here we’ve got people on the weekends doing their BCF: boating, camping, fishing stuff and they’re doing, boating, camping, fishing for 15 hours and then working as slaves in their jobs for 40 hours.

Aboriginal people were boating and camping and fishing for 80,000 years and they only had to do it for 15 hours a week and they made art the rest of the time. That’s an advanced society, and so I would be looking at the values, at the heart of those stories and the heart of the culture, because the stories change as the culture changes. As the landscape changes, the culture changes and everyone adapts, but the constant over those 80,000 years – and I’ve had to think about this, because I’m from La Perouse. I’m from ground zero where the culture was destroyed. I don’t have language. We didn’t have our Dreaming stories, so I’ve had to think about making new ones.

If we’re going to sit down and compose new stories like Curtis was saying, well where do you start? I think those instructional – yes, I think we should have stories about teaching young kids in communities and this could go across all Australia. If you grow up in a house with a single mum, maybe you should help out a little bit by doing the dishes. I want to hear that epic story. [Laughter]

PAUL BARCLAY: I’m sure you do. I’m sure you’re not the only one who wants to hear that story too.

ALISON PAGE: Yes, but they’re didactic, they’re instructional. When you don’t have a written language, you have to embed that kind of knowledge. That’s why a lot of the stories are about sharing and so on. If you don’t, you’re always going to turn to stone and they nearly always end like that.

MARGO NEALE: Yes. Solidarity story, yes. We had the solidarity story before the unions.

PAUL BARCLAY: Scott.

SCOTT RANKIN: I just wanted to try a quick survey for radio.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, sure.

SCOTT RANKIN: Just wondering, who in the audience knows how to say hello in the language of the country where the Eiffel Tower sits as a great tourist icon, in the room? For the radio – almost all the hands went up.

PAUL BARCLAY: That’s most people.

SCOTT RANKIN: Who knows how to say hello in Pitjantjatjara language on country where the great icon of Uluru stands right where we live? Two, three, four, that’s pretty average. Now, it’s not pushing that for a guilt reason, it’s pushing it for a policy reason. If language is disappearing and the capacity to whisper the sounds of language from elder to child or from Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal person, it’s because of a policy genocide.

We have to claim these things and name them now, and ask for change politely in a non-adversarial way. Get beside your MP, if there’s any left in Parliament. [Laughter] To me, what you’re saying, new story – here we are with this great opportunity, incredibly intact cultures, incredible cultures that are relearning where I live in the north-west of Tasmania, incredible issues there.

There is great courage and ongoing strength in the reclaiming of language, the remaking of story, and guess what? Scott, whose parents are Irish and English, generously invited him all over the country to come and be part of that, as much as part of any other culture in this country.

PAUL BARCLAY: Indeed. Margo, let’s talk about the exhibition itself. I had a walk-through just a few moments ago. It’s important to say from the outset, this is an Indigenous-initiated project. You were approached by Aboriginal people to put this exhibition on quite a long time ago actually, tell us how it happened and the genesis of this project.

MARGO NEALE: Well, it started that way. ‘From little things, big things grow’, as we know.

PAUL BARCLAY: As they say.

MARGO NEALE: It started as the Anangu initiative who were concerned for the reasons you’ve spoken about already, for preservation reasons. They approached both the Museum and the ANU [Australian National University], the moons lined up if you like – they’ve been trying for a decade, previously, but I can see why people just didn’t take it on willy-nilly, it’s quite an undertaking – but the moons lined up and we got an ARC [Australian Research Council] grant.

What was initiated wasn’t an exhibition. In the first instance it was actually an archival project to track and document the songlines as I said for Ara Irititja and to pass on. A lot of these people also hadn’t been back to country for 50 years. Some had never been to country, they just knew their country through story. A whole heap of stuff was happening on the sidelines.

The secondary thing was that there would be an exhibition. One might say, ‘Why bother? If you get the archive, you get the story, why have an exhibition?’ Well, this mob are very strategic and they know – apart from that interest in the younger people, if they don’t get all of Australia onside, as it has been said here, and acknowledge the centrality of songlines to the Australian story – in other words, this mob are saying, ‘If you’re Australian and you live on this continent with us, then you need to know your stories.’ It’s not just being nice and sharing, it was actually political as well as survival. One of the other survival mechanisms – and to demonstrate that these aren’t just little myths and legends, these are these huge learning instructional tools and everyone needs to get on board and we’ll all learn from it.

PAUL BARCLAY: The way museums usually work, is that the museum has an idea and it decides it’s going to do something. Then it goes and talks to all of the people that are involved in this idea and if they’re an enlightened institution, they’ll consult with the people they should consult. This has flipped the model completely around, hasn’t it? Where actually someone’s come to you and said, ‘This is really bloody important. The whole of Australia should know about it. You guys at the Museum, you know how to do this sort of thing.’ But very much it comes from the community, from the elders, the custodians themselves, right?

MARGO NEALE: Well this is an Australian history museum and if we’re doing our job, of which may have not missed them either – and we are a new museum. In perception, we don’t actually come with all the baggage – but museums as you know, our mob saw them as harbingers of the loot, from the stolen loot of our ancestors. There was that kind of bad reputation.

It is particularly poignant, number one. Number two, it is redefining the way communities work with museums as opposed to how museums work with communities. These elders are not our reference group or our advisory council or anything, they are the curators of the country and this exhibition is curated country. We were all knowledge-holders. It wasn’t ‘them’ and ‘us’ and ‘they’re better than us’ or ‘we’re better’. It was knowledge-holders, which is shared skills and knowledges to bring together them of the content if you like, us of the Western sciences and curatorial school, in this place, which belongs to all Australians, and that includes Australians who hold and tell story differently.

PAUL BARCLAY: This has occurred over an almost ten-year period that we’re talking about when you were first approached and Museum staff have gone out onto country, this vast expanse of country with the elders representing the various parts of the Seven Sisters songlines working closely with them. This is an immense undertaking really, isn’t it?

MARGO NEALE: Yes. I’ve been in the curatorial business for 30-plus years, but this is not like most of my exhibitions where you go to other collecting institutions, you borrow their staff, you commission a few works and so on. This is absolutely primary research. As you say, these are huge Ara Irititja trips in the desert, sand hill country, convoys of cars, elderly people, many in not such good health, timescale’s different. I never want to sleep in a riverbed again. [Laughter] I’ve had it. ‘Oh it – done up. Finished up with it!’

Sita’s who’s here did a few of the big trips. The last Martu trip was like 30 people, ten cars, 600 kilometres, no roads. What we went to get we couldn’t get very much, because not the right people were there to talk for that country or to take that photo. You can’t tell any of this – you can have this huge trip planned and you get there and whoops! Nice packing and unpacking, Toyotas every day for ten days.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes.

MARGO NEALE: It is very much a – I don’t know how to explain – yes it’s an ‘on the ground’ exhibition development.

PAUL BARCLAY: Indeed, and not to mention the fact that the exhibition itself also brings together all of the knowledge and information and insight that you’d expect from a curatorial institution, but it’s also an art exhibition as well. The artwork is absolutely astonishing. Now Curtis, I wanted to talk about another thing that’s happening alongside, as kind of part of the Seven Sisters songlines exhibition and that’s Collisions.

This incredible, amazing virtual reality artwork that takes us on a journey of the land of Indigenous elder Nyarri Nyarri Morgan from the Martu tribe in the remote Western Australia desert, your country. You are part of the documentary crew and cultural liaison of Collisions, this year won an Emmy Award for outstanding new approaches in documentary after strapping on [applause] – yes, let’s give him an applause – after strapping on the VR [virtual reality] headset and the headphones, I can see why you won an award. Impossible to describe on radio, brilliant approach.

Can you just tell us about Collisions, what the idea behind it was and why you thought it was important to tell this story, the story of Maralinga in the way that you did?

CURTIS TAYLOR: Yes. It’s a team effort and Gary and Lynette Wallworth were at the front. I was kind of behind my elder, Nyarri and also Lynette telling the story, translating it across. On the project I was the Director’s Attachment to Lynette and translating what Lynette wanted to get out of Nyarri in the shot on the day when we were shooting. Also, translating what Nyarri said, so that we made sure that we got what we needed on the day when we were shooting.

This is just not Nyarri’s story, but I think it’s more of a collective South Australian Anangu story, and also the service people that worked on the project. Both sides, people who were affected, people who worked on the project on the Australian and British sides. So this is –

MARGO NEALE: Maralinga?

CURTIS TAYLOR: Yes, Maralinga.

PAUL BARCLAY: This is a story that we all need to know about. Yes, absolutely.

CURTIS TAYLOR: Yes. Nyarri was at the time in the 1950s with two other people, walking towards the Tri-State area, Tri-State border, WA [Western Australia]-Northern Territories-South Australia, towards Maralinga area. That area was a huge trade route for the Tri-State peoples, Western Desert peoples. They traversed that country for millennia, trading, all kind of ceremonies, stories. They were then, in 1950s and – witness this thing that they didn’t have a name for – was this mushroom cloud and this effect is after – all the stuff that came after falling from the sky. That they learned the names when they were in the missions in Warburton, that it was an atomic bomb, atomic testing.

Yes, it was awesome to just be on the journey with Nyarri and Lynette and Nola touring it too. We shot it over a week. Post-production was Edmondson, we finished it off just in time to take it to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, in Davos. Nyarri didn’t have a passport out then until – like one week out of the trip that we got it – so yes, we showed it to heads of state from all over the world and Nyarri got to be there in virtual reality, and be there as in presence of them talking about, and sharing similarities between people from Kazakhstan, from New Mexico, from all over the world that had similar stories, from nuclear stories.

PAUL BARCLAY: Can you remember the first time you watched the final product, put the headset on and the headphones on? It is an incredible experience isn’t it? Seeing the nuclear bomb go off, the white light rushes toward you, the kangaroos burning in front of you. How did you feel when you first saw that yourself?

CURTIS TAYLOR: Well, I was there in the post-production when they did the animation in the US and California in Berkeley. We worked with the animation team, Whiskytree in the Bay Area. I was there advising them on what colour the earth is, and the kangaroos and the sounds that these kangaroos make. The landscape that it was around them, so I saw it on a flat screen and also in the HTC Vive, which is attached to your desktop so that I could experience while we were editing virtual reality.

Yes. I think it didn’t hit home with me until I was there with Nyarri one week out of when we were travelling to Switzerland. That was in Perth and was just having breakfast at my house in Leederville. I said, ‘This is the demo, this is final product, what do you think?’ We put it on together and saw it. He just didn’t say anything, just gave the thumbs up and I was, yes, really happy.

PAUL BARCLAY: It’s quite overwhelming isn’t it Alison? That piece at the end with Robert Oppenheimer telling the story too, as the kind of coda to the story.

ALISON PAGE: Yes, look, it’s interesting because Lynette and I were in Maralinga in the late 90s together. We were working on the Adelaide Festival. My job was to go and build an art room, because the community in Oak Valley had never painted before and they wanted to paint about the bomb. Lynette had started the journey with that story really back then.

Interestingly, we were hugely criticised for taking a lot of the Adelaide Festival out to Oak Valley to somewhere that was completely remote. Peter Sellars was sacked as the artistic director, and it was incredibly controversial. I just think about how full circle that’s all gone now, and the fact that, because there was a play written, [The Career Highlights of] Mamu was written as well by Trevor Jamieson amazing play, paintings; but the story didn’t resonate until this work was created. VR is [an] incredibly powerful medium, they call it an empathy machine for a very good reason, because you can actually feel completely part of the story.

I think they are a big sign of things to come when we start to see these projects that are advocating for social justice, adopting these kind of mediums, which I believe are very culturally appropriate. When you look at something like augmented reality, where you roll your smartphone over the landscape and the stories come to life, that’s a very Indigenous concept. The idea that the land is speaking to you, but it’s going to literally speak to you with these new digital mediums.

PAUL BARCLAY: Yes, so Scott there’s that. There’s the virtual-reality Collisions that we saw today, but then there’s also the dome lab within the Seven Sisters songlines exhibition itself. This huge immersive six-metre dome that showcases rarely seen rock art, where you kind of lie beneath it. Do you think that these contemporary digital ways of storytelling are the way to go in terms of taking those stories to a new generation of people?

SCOTT RANKIN: I think it’s the arrogance of the contemporary that we go, ‘Technology’s just started in our lifetime,’ so it’s always been technology and there is transitioning technology and there always will be, and it is accelerating. I think there are a couple of issues there, one – and Curtis you would be better to comment – but there is an incredible array of private knowledge, of which you earn the cultural right to be involved in. Then there is what is safe for other Australians to see.

I’m not sure that the digital domain, as we in its amateurish first two decades, is necessarily particularly useful for the private knowledge. I do think it’s really useful for building the protections of narrative across the country. That’s a critical thing and probably I shouldn’t go on, so you interrupt me here.

PAUL BARCLAY: Margo, I mean why did you choose these more digital methods for telling the story of Seven Sisters? There are of course, numerous canvas artworks that people would recognise, to use the vernacular, as Indigenous dot paintings as well throughout the exhibition. The centrepiece is this dome, this immersive dome, and that’s a very important part of the journey that you take when you go through this exhibition. At what point did you decide that was going to be the way in which you took people in to the Seven Sisters songline story?

MARGO NEALE: Well, really at that early stage of forming things you just get a sense of stuff. These whole songlines and the way our people pass on stories and knowledge is a very embodied multi-sensory process. As Scott just said, the digital isn’t new really when you think back, so that’s one thing. The second thing is, you’ve got to be immersed and totally absorbing and inhaling. That’s how you learn it, just not text on a wall, though some people need that.

The other thing is that, don’t forget the first projections or cinema experiences were really in these rock art caves. They are the first dome theatres. The fire, the flickering fire light, the animating of the figures, the whole – that is in some ways, if you stretch your imagination you can start seeing the dome in that same way.

PAUL BARCLAY: Absolutely. Yes.

MARGO NEALE: It’s perfectly appropriate. Then there is the whole idea of multimedia, multi-sensory, multiple points of entry, multiple ways of imparting knowledge. Then there’s the making culture cool for the young fellas, that’s all part of it. We can’t see it yet, but I’ve no doubt that perhaps if we got this dome to Araluen or something – but even here the bush news is just whipping up big time around the deserts – one way or another they’ll all want to get on the wagon and learn the story.

SCOTT RANKIN: Let me just say one thing here and I think again, it’s an issue that’s invisible and critical. It’s the issue of digital justice. If you look at the Australian Digital Inclusion Index right now, if you’re Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, if you’re a young woman, if you’re from a low socio-economic background, if you’re mobile only, you are currently falling rapidly behind the rest of the population and your peers, who are engaging in the digital economy.

It’s exactly the same and we’re doing this, I’m doing this. It’s exactly the same as when the blackboard and chalk was invented, you only show it to the rich kids. That’s happening to Indigenous Australia right now and people who live across the class divide and living in perpetual generational poverty. Look, it sounds like this is super heavy, but it’s radio. We’re so close, you’re just two calls from the Prime Minister, ring Lucy [Turnbull], get on, have a conversation. [Laughter]

MARGO NEALE: She’s here, isn’t she?

SCOTT RANKIN: Have a conversation, because it’s as critical I think as what we’re doing currently to Aboriginal people by excluding them from superannuation and Marcia Langton is one of the only people speaking about that. These are critical issues – as we sip our chai lattes – that we’ve got to do something about, because it is story. It’s just a different kind of story.

PAUL BARCLAY: It’s the digital divide and this must be an important thing for you to consider Curtis, because this is the medium that you work in. Young people are digitally connected, but as Scott says, unfortunately Indigenous people just don’t have the access that many of us take for granted and the rest of the country.

CURTIS TAYLOR: Yes, and for many different reasons. I just wanted to come back with what you said earlier, about the sacredness of the country and in the case of Collisions when we shot around the country, that we introduced the camera to Nyarri, which was a 16 rig camera in a sphere. When Nyarri put on the headset and saw the camera, he immediately said, ‘Well that camera has 16 eyes, and I know where to place it in my country, and make sure what the viewers, what the audience is going to see that I want them to see.’

It’s clear it’s not sacred or it’s not for certain people’s eyes. Yes, that was the challenge and it was also checked by ladies and men when we shot in virtual reality.

PAUL BARCLAY: Okay, just another thing we haven’t touched on Alison, the songlines reveal much about traditional Aboriginal understanding of the world, the land, the plants, the sky and so on. They are a window into a different way of thinking, a different way of thinking to us Western whitefellas anyway. What do songlines reveal about Indigenous knowledge of this place we live on? The plants, the animals, Indigenous science in a sense?

ALISON PAGE: Yes, well science and technology from an Indigenous perspective is totally what songlines are about. I think that’s really interesting that right now Western science, I think at the heart of it, it’s really about how to care for country. Aboriginal people in traditional society, the average person knew intricate knowledge about 400 plants per person. If you actually just stopped to think about that, like when they flower, when they season, which parts of them are poison, which parts of them are potions, how to prepare the potions. You don’t have a way of writing that down.

That’s epic in the idea of that, within these stories is this incredible compendium of scientific data and the way that that was recorded and downloaded by Aboriginal people, through story and how the land itself became the visual indicator to remind you of that story. You can imagine with Chinese Whispers, over 80,000 years, those stories, it’s incredible to me that they stayed so intact. Within those stories about those amazing flowers and things that the creatures would turn into and stuff like that, they were actually quite practical knowledge. If you look at something like –

PAUL BARCLAY: Sophisticated knowledge.

ALISON PAGE: – well sophisticated knowledge and if you look at something like climate change now, that you can’t look at climate change from an Indigenous perspective without understanding how it relates to the stars. How the way that the climate was mapped was to do with when the wattle is flowering, the mullet is running, and there were all these connections between the animals and the way they were behaving. When to hunt them related to when flowers were planting, when the stars were at a certain position in the sky.

That observation and repetition that happened, and that trial and error that happened over 80,000 years, there’s so much we still have to glean from that before the keepers of that knowledge – we lose the keys to unlock it.

PAUL BARCLAY: Well there’s so much potential knowledge to be gained. Can you just briefly tell us the story of the Aboriginal man from Groote Eylandt in the top end, who has a neurodegenerative disease? He believes a cure can be found from the land and the salt water on his country, just tell us briefly talking about that.

ALISON PAGE: We’re talking about Steve ‘Bakala’ Wurramara, who we made a short film earlier this year at his request. He really wanted – I suppose it was his way of adding to the Songlines from his country – he has Machado-Joseph disease, which is a neurodegenerative disease, where you basically become a prisoner, your mind is absolutely fine, but your body over time breaks down because of the proteins in the brain and the abnormalities there. Bakala has that.

They believe that that family – it came over with the Chinese actually that were trading with the communities hundreds of years ago. You have a 50 per cent chance of passing it on to your children. It’s really insidious in that it accelerates as it goes, so the symptoms come on quicker with each new generation. They believe that an ancestor of theirs cut a dugong up the wrong way and so that family has been cursed.

Bakala wanted to tell that story, and even though he says to me, ‘I know there’s no dugongs in China,’ [laughter] his rational mind is saying … Their knowledge is narrative – there isn’t really any narrative fiction, it’s true; and so when he wanted to find a cure on country, he had a dream and this spirit came to him and told him to find the cure. The cure’s in the salt water, the saltwater country. So he is working with the MJD Foundation now, and actually collecting lots of different traditional medicines from that land, which they have a book like this – it’s this thick – of medicines, which none of us know and science knows nothing about. There’s this huge library of knowledge.

Do you think that’s changing? I mean you’re working at the moment on a project that you can’t tell us about, so I won’t ask you about it. Nonetheless, you’re working on this program about Indigenous knowledge of science and technology that we may see in the future. Do you think we’re at a moment now where there is increased interest in this stuff?

ALISON PAGE: Some of that interest is sinister in the sense that we do have Big Pharma here in setting up shop in remote parts of Australia, actually buyer prospecting and looking for medicines. When you have a community like Bakala’s that actually does the right thing and prints these books that try and keep their knowledge alive, that IP [intellectual property] is sitting there waiting to be stolen. It would be really interesting for most audiences to know that when the Allied forces landed in Normandy on D-Day, they all had in their pocket a little bit of traditional knowledge from Australia. They all had a medicine called Travacalm, which is synthesised from the Australian corkwood tree; which wasn’t even stolen just from Indigenous people, it was stolen from all Australians, that knowledge.

I think that there’s that interest that’s going on, which is an economic interest. I hope that in five, ten years’ time, science and technology subjects at school, we are learning science from an Indigenous perspective, because it is amazing. We know because we’re exporting fire-stick farming to Africa in Namibia and Argentina, there’s a lot to offer.

PAUL BARCLAY: I kind of like to connect this discussion we’ve been having about songlines in the exhibition here with the broader discussions about Indigenous issues within the community. We have not resolved our past in Australia. Indigenous people rightly feel that there is unfinished business that needs to be attended to, the Uluru Statement I think touches on some of the things that the Indigenous community would like to see, to help us move forward as a nation.

I think as Scott was saying among whitefellas, there can be a sense of guilt that causes inertia. There can be a sense of denial as well, that there is a stain in our history. How do the songlines fit within all of that? How relevant are they to our sense of our identity and our history, and can enhance understanding of them help us to move forward? Is that too ambitious a name, Margo, for partly what this exhibition is seeking to do?

MARGO NEALE: Not at all. What Songlines is doing, is really just setting up an environment under which a lot of these things can find some, I don’t know, nourishment, attitudinal changes. For example, Amanda Vanstone came through the exhibition and came out like you, under a hallucinatory experience – anyway, not quite – she was basically saying, ‘This is so powerfully positive, this is so inclusive, I’ve never felt so part of this history of this country before. I’m physically transformed.’ She’s talking like this and she had tears in her eyes. It was this positive inclusiveness. She’s one –

PAUL BARCLAY: She’s not the only one. You’ve seen others, haven’t you?

MARGO NEALE: This is a common story. Andrea Mason, the CEO of the NPY [Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara] Women’s Council, she talks about how if the heart of the nation’s healthy, the rest of the nation will be healthy and that sort of somehow resounds with the Songlines exhibition. Dozens of people come with that same story. ‘I’ve never really got it.’ They’re not sure what they get, they just get a connection they never had before and that has to have some attitudinal change.

Now, it’s matter of getting all the decision-makers and the leaders and influential people in there as well. I just think, there’s a – too long story to go into now – but I think there’s something powerful happening with the way the elders have worked on this, that will transform into something that we can tap into.

PAUL BARCLAY: Scott, I think we can all see the importance of preserving these stories for the Indigenous communities, who are custodians of them, but for the broader issue of reconciliation for want of a better term. Can these stories help us to move forward and increase knowledge of these stories?

SCOTT RANKIN: I can only – Alison and Curtis and Margo – speak from my own experience of being invited in over 20 years since working with Leah Purcell on Box the Pony and then with Trevor on [The] Career Highlights of Mamu and then Ngapartji Ngapartji and with the Namatjiras and with Hipbone Sticking Out. Many of these pieces have been here in Canberra at the Canberra Theatre Centre.

The one abiding theme – the two abiding themes, were that I was the learner who had some skills. I was invited into a generous space in which I was protected. I was safe from knowledge that is powerful and I think we need to start recognising that. I was protected – and Curtis would understand this – by gentle deflection away from things that were not for my knowledge. To me, this is the future. It is about being prepared who we are, who you are, Paul, and who most of the audience is.

Number one assume you don’t know, number two assume people will be generous with you – and yes, it’s tricky here, because in Canberra, you have one of the world’s great embassies sitting right here, 2022, that’s the anniversary. It hasn’t been invited into the narrative yet. I hope it will be. It’s vexed for Canberra, because it sits there and it’s a reminder of the fear that we feel, that I feel that I’m going to make a mistake. That you won’t be generous with me, but you’ve got to push through that fear.

PAUL BARCLAY: You still feel that.

SCOTT RANKIN: I feel that all the time, because the one guarantee is that I will make a mistake – not because I’m a fool and not because this culture is more sacrosanct than mine – it’s because I’m walking into a new place and those two things work together, generosity and exchange and Ngapartji Ngapartji, reciprocity, those are the –

ALISON PAGE: Responsibility.

SCOTT RANKIN: Yes, exactly. They are the words of the centre of our country and the words of the heritage that is offered to us all. Let me just say two other things. Over 150 nations, for thousands of years, tens of thousands of years on a continent like Europe, the world’s greatest display of diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, what an asset we never to talk about it.

Number two and you alluded to it. Incredible ecological stewardship for 2000 generations, what an asset and what do we do? We are scared of it, because we think we’re going to get in trouble, so we ignore it. Now, answer me this, if you saw the Namatjira documentary, Lenie Kumantjai Namatjira just passed away six days after getting the copyright back. It’s tragic, but it is how it is and do we honour the traditional owners? Do they who have struggled, do they sit down the road here in Canberra in the War Memorial? Do they get their portraits painted, which is the way that we in this culture bestow status and wealth?

ALISON PAGE: Recognise.

SCOTT RANKIN: Exactly. It sits with us, it’s a generous space, let’s move into it, be willing to make mistakes.

MARGO NEALE: We mustn’t negate the gains and advances that are made. The Archibald had Aboriginal works, stuffs happening. I’m not negating anything you’re saying.

SCOTT RANKIN: No.

MARGO NEALE: Whilst we’re looking at things that have been slow or things that have happened that are tragic, I think the work you do –

SCOTT RANKIN: It’s a cack.

MARGO NEALE: – the work we all do here is very much about – and I was talking to Mat Trinca today about this – is very much about all moving forward together in this sort of, productive dialogue for a new future, a shared future. I think Songlines does that a bit.

PAUL BARCLAY: I’m going to have to wrap this, but I do want to give Curtis the last word. Curtis, I can see why it’s important for your people to preserve this knowledge for the younger generations of Indigenous people. Do you care though about whether whitefellas understand more about these stories as well? Is that part of your thinking as well?

CURTIS TAYLOR: I think the one thing of people, if you make them – if they make themselves better and make their country better – I think that’s one of the most important thing that, once this – their well-being is looked after or getting better, then there’s a much freer, healthier dialogue between different peoples. Other people said – not unwell, who feed off that and feed off their country – that’s what a lot of the old people talk about then. You made a country better, you make the people better and everything comes back stable to make it more healthy.

PAUL BARCLAY: Fabulous discussion. Thanks very much to our four guests tonight.

[Applause]

PAUL BARCLAY: Thanks for coming along tonight. Thanks an enormous amount to the National Museum for inviting me to come along once again. It is always a pleasure and an honour to be here. I’ll tell you what, I always go away so enlightened and with so much new information, just spinning around in my head. It’s a bit like what you were saying earlier Alison, ‘I’ve got a sore head,’ from all of this additional information. Thanks for coming along, thanks to our guests and Mat, do you want to say a few words to wrap up the conversation?

MATHEW TRINCA: Just quickly. Just again thanks to our panellists tonight. What an inspiring discussion ranging across, not just this work that’s here at the Museum at the moment, but issues I think that go to the heart of meaning in our future in this country. Please join me again in thanking the panellists.

[Applause]

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Date published: 01 January 2018

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