Skilled volunteering benefits Indigenous artists
I have just moved into my new house (finally!) and hung the amazing Indigenous art (and one lovely, long necked bird sculpture) I bought during my recent trip to the Kimberley with the Arts Law Centre of Australia.
The purpose of the pro bono ‘Artists in the Black’ trip was to draft wills for remote Indigenous artists painting through their community art centres and provide them with associated legal advice. Many artists in these remote areas generate crucial income for their families and community and the importance of a will in clearly defining beneficiaries, directing how art and money held by art centres should be dealt with, and facilitating access to any copyright and resale royalties cannot be underestimated. Sorting out intestacies can take years and this project gives artists the comfort of knowing that when they pass away, their families will have access to their estates in a timely and effective way. This was the first time a corporate lawyer has accompanied the Arts Law Centre on one of these trips and I’m very grateful to Telstra and the Arts Law Centre that I was that lucky lawyer.
Personally, the trip was a transformative experience which enabled me to use my professional qualifications in a very meaningful, productive way. It was a privilege to speak to the artists about such intimate matters as their family histories and relationships and what they wanted to happen after they pass, and then turn that conversation into a will.
I’m also a huge art buff (in case you didn’t guess) and during the trip I saw lots of artists making their art at the various art centres. I still think about one elderly desert woman with a cloud of grey hair singing softly to herself and moving her brush around and around, from which was pouring the most beautiful rainbow coloured linear painting, like water from a tap. And I am happy to say she now has a will.
Many artists also shared with me their personal stories of country, which are integral to their art-making. And what country it is; boab trees which look like someone has blown their trunks up into balloons and ant hills, rearing ridges and red earth everywhere. I felt like I was driving through a Dr Seuss illustration.
The trip was a once in a lifetime experience of country, people and art. It also viscerally demonstrated to me the positive impact that our professional and personal skills can have in different contexts to the everyday ones in which we usually use them. All we need to do is open ourselves up to what is possible.
You too can get involved in skilled volunteering by registering with Goodcompany, a non-profit initiative that matches individuals with community groups that are looking for skilled volunteers.
For more information please visit www.goodcompany.com.au