The Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre (University of Newcastle) is a vibrant Indigenous community arts studio and gallery that seeks to develop community art-making skills in the Indigenous communities of regional, rural and remote New South Wales. The Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre uses art as a rich tool to encourage oral histories and, in doing so, supports wellbeing and cultural connectedness for Indigenous peoples within our communities.

The ‘Gomeroi Yarning Dolls’ project engages Gomeroi Elders, women, teenagers and others to develop a doll in relation to significant stories or experiences from their life in a relaxed and safe environment. The project enables increased cultural identity and learning through the sharing of stories, knowledge and experiences.

Doll-making has important meanings that translate personal and community identity for many First Nation peoples. This body of work builds resilience, history, cultural awareness, health education and identity within our community through the practice of artmaking, sharing oral history, mentoring and community connectedness.

Within the concept of oral storytelling is ‘yarning’, an informal conversation that Australian Indigenous people recognise as a way for a group of people to share their own stories and learn from the stories of others. The recording on digital media of the act of making the dolls, as well as the passing of oral history from generation to generation, not only enhances cultural knowledge by improving cultural identity and community wellbeing, but increases cultural awareness to the wider community who attend Gomeroi Yarning Dolls exhibitions. 

Allen Alma Green, Aunty Audrey Trindall, Aunty Daphne, Aunty Pearl Slater, Aunty Rona Slater, Joanne Stead, Kate Sutherland, Loretta Weatherall, Lyniece Keogh, Margaret Green, Suszanne Lang

Image: Gomeroi Dolls, 2017,  Eco-dyed materials, patterned materials, linen, calico, wool, plastic, acrylic, feathers, embroidery cotton, string, fabric paint, polyester stuffing Photo: Tess Reading