Uncle Freedom

Julie DOWLING: artist

Not On Display

About the work

My male ancestors were resistance fighters on Badimia country in the
central west of Western Australia. Around 1870s, white squatters began
to take our land to run sheep and then mine for gold. They would shoot
us if we were not in western clothing or when we took their sheep for
food. A common practice was to poison our waterholes which were very
rare in our country. Our men formed warrior groups who fought to run
these invaders from our land. Many men died. Those captured, including
my menfolk, were sent to Rottnest Island Native Penal Settlement.
Many Badimia/Yamatji men are now buried there in unmarked graves.
Some warriors escaped from Rottnest, while others lived out their term,
returning to their stolen country decades later. Rottnest Island is now a
holiday destination.
Badimia women are very strong. When their men dramatically decreased
in number, the brutality shown to them by wudjulah (white) men was
widespread. Badimaya girls, as young as ten, having survived the
butchering, were kept as shepherdesses or guides to find water. They
were subjected to every kind of abuse. My great-great-grandmother,
Melbin, was one of those girls. She was taken to England as an exhibit
until one day she told her white master, “find one of your own kind” and
ran away.
Their daughter, my great Granny Mary Latham (née Oliver) was a slave
for her white father in his hotel called “The Shadow of Death”. She tended
traveler’s horses and looked after her father’s new children to a white
woman. She learnt how to use a gun, and then no one would touch her.
I painted this picture because I love my family, they tell me the truth. I’m
Badimaya and not an ‘Australian Aboriginal’.
Uncle Freedom
Artist/Maker and role
Julie DOWLING: artist
synthetic polymer paint, oil and ochre on canvas
100 x 120 cm
Credit line
Purchased through the Sir Claude Hotchin Art Foundation, The Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2000
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.