Art on the Move touring exhibition - Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret)

Published on 08 July 2019

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Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret) by Julie Dowling

ART ON THE MOVE touring exhibition Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret) presents a collection of works by renowned artist Julie Dowling. Yagu Garlburl (Big Secret) centers on the theme of slavery of First Nations Peoples in Australia, both in past centuries and in current Australian society.

The exhibition presents a series of highly decorated figurative artworks that will draw in and engage the viewer. Closer inspection reveals a strong political edge challenging the myth that First Nations Peoples were/are lazy and a drain on society. The beauty presented in the works becomes a metaphor for the resilience and wisdom of First Nation’s Peoples to overcome the narrow narrative that has mythologised colonisation. This is a unique opportunity for the regions to present a solo exhibition featuring a significant Western Australian artist.

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Image Credit: Julie Dowling Aunty Violet, 2017. Image courtesy Reiner Hafner.

From diving for pearls, back breaking farm labour and minding children of their colonial masters in past centuries, to present day work for government benefits Dowling forces Australians to face racist discourses. The works in Dowling’s exhibition speak of these atrocities and show how beautifully resilient her people are despite this. Between 1800s and 1970s, Aboriginal workers in Australia were enslaved, denied wages that were stolen by corrupt officials and employers and generations of First Nations Australians were locked into a cycle of poverty that still exists today.

A clear example of the inequality of wages is referenced in the 2016 Australian Census which states that 20% of First Nations Peoples reported a weekly household of $1000 or more compared with 41% of the rest of the population. [1]

 “The works in Dowling’s exhibition speak of the atrocities of slavery and show how beautifully resilient our people are despite this.” - Carol Dowling

Diversifying the Visitor Experience

A recent study from Tourism WA found that visitor interest in First Nations activities or experiences continued to far outweigh opportunity for participation.[2] Julie Dowling’s Yagu Gurlbarl (Big Secret) provides a rich and creative platform for visitors and residents to engage and connect their stories to one of the oldest living cultures, leading to a sense of pride, place and identity.

About Julie Dowling
Julie Dowling is a First Nations Badimaya Yamaji from the Midwest of Western Australia. Dowling grew up in both semi-rural and urban areas in a large extended family of impoverished Badimaya, Scottish & Irish Roman Catholics.

Working in a realist style, Dowling draws on diverse traditions including European portraiture and Christian icons, mural painting, dotting and Indigenous Australian iconography. Like an ethnographer, Dowling recording the deep-seated injustices in the Indigenous community. Her works have a strong political edge; however, she speaks as a colonised subject and subverts the traditional power relations between the observer and the observed.


ART ON THE MOVE is a not-for-profit visual arts organisation encouraging connections and fostering a sense of belonging, creativity and a greater understanding of ourselves and the world through visual art. We do this by touring quality contemporary art with appropriate learning and development opportunities that speak to and develop the unique cultural narratives of communities whatever the cultural practice. Age, ability and engagement with culture.

Act-Belong-Commit Engagement Program (Sponsored by Healthway)

The free Act-Belong-Commit Engagement Program presented by ART ON THE MOVE creates inspiring pathways for participation, learning and engagement that connects new and potential audiences in appropriate, meaningful, fun and creative ways. Including education resources, artists/curators talks and gallery tours, the free program is made possible through investment by Healthway providing young people in regional and remote areas across Western Australia the opportunity to engage with practicing artists and immerse themselves in visual experiences through learning. Find out more on the ART ON THE MOVE website and Act-Belong-Commit.

Exhibition On Show: 

At ArtGeo Gallery - Queen Street Cultural Precinct, Busselton

From: 6 July – 25 August, 2019

Opening Hours: 10.00am – 4.00pm daily

Contact Details:

Sharon Williams  |  (08) 9751 4651   |   |


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Image credit: Julie Dowling Cousin Peter, 2017 Image courtesy of City of Greater Geraldton

ART ON THE MOVE would like to acknowledge that Australias First peoples are the traditional custodians of this land and we pay our respects to the Elders both past, present and future for their unique contribution to the cultural life of communities across Australia.

An ART ON THE MOVE touring exhibition.

ART ON THE MOVE is supported by the State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.


[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population, 2016

[2] Tourism WA – A WA Aboriginal tourism snapshot (2016-17)

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