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Marlene Gilson Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade, 2014 synthetic polymer paint on canvas Purchased with funds from The Sir Wilfred Brookes Charitable Foundation, 2014
Marlene Gilson Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade, 2014 synthetic polymer paint on canvas Purchased with funds from The Sir Wilfred Brookes Charitable Foundation, 2014

A First Nations view of the Eureka Stockade

The artist

Aunty Marlene Gilson is a Wadawurrung (Wathaurung) Elder living on Country near Ballarat. who started painting later in life while recuperating from a serious illness. She is a descendant of King Billy and Queen Mary, respected Elders of the Wadawurrung people at the time of the gold rush, and their son John Robinson (born 1846). Gilson was born in Warrnambool in south-west Victoria. She learned many traditional stories of local First Nations people from her grandmother who lived at Framlingham, an Aboriginal community on the Hopkins River near Warrnambool.

Gilson’s meticulously painted works display a narrative richness similar to the traditional genre of history painting. However, she depicts stories relating to her ancestral land, Wadawurrung Country which covers Ballarat, Werribee, Geelong, Skipton and the Otway Ranges in Victoria. She often includes her two totems, Bunjil the Eagle and Waa the Crow, and her paintings not only reshape historical narratives, but display her spiritual connection to Country.

She draws on her cultural heritage to explore precolonial and postcolonial narratives of Australian history. Until recently, First Nations perspectives have been largely omitted from the telling of Australia’s past. In her paintings, Gilson shares stories handed down to her, repositioning the role of the Wadawurrung people within narratives of Ballarat’s history and re-contextualising Australian history from a First Nations perspective.

 

The painting 

Aunty Marlene Gilson’s painting Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade 2014 explores the history of the Wadawurrung people during the early years on the Ballarat diggings,  a perspective that has been excluded from European accounts of this period. 

While the goldrush brought prosperity to the young colony of Victoria, the rapid growth of the economy had an irreversible effect on both the landscape and First Nations culture, including that of the Wadawurrung people in the Ballarat area. Aboriginal people had to adapt to survive and the Wadawurrung people took on many roles undertaken by European settlers including mining and tracking. Their local knowledge was also instrumental in the discovery of gold. 

Gilson draws both from family stories and her own research of colonial life to reposition First Nations people in depictions of the goldfields, showing them in various roles such as serving in the Native Police Corps, mining, fossicking and trackingTo the left of the centre of the painting, Gilson’s ancestor King Billy stands within a Wadawurrung camp. An Aboriginal woman can be seen in the camp with children – it is believed that during the Eureka rebellion Wadawurrung women cared for the miners children, keeping them safe.  

By re-imagining the events of the Eureka Rebellion, Gilson re-contextualises Australian history, placing a key moment in Australian history into a greater story of the evolving relationship between First Nations people and settlers in colonial Victoria. 

Other works By Aunty Marlene Gilson in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat 

Mount Warrenheip, Bunjil and his creations 2012
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Purchased with funds from the Elinor Morcom Bequest, 2012 

Black swamp, Lake Wendouree 2019
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Purchased with funds from the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association, 2018 

Eel trapping 2018
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Purchased with funds from the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association, 2018 

King Billy and Queen Mary campsite 2018
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Purchased with funds from the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association, 2018 

Trooper 2019
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Purchased with funds from the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association, 2018 

FOR SCHOOLS

Discuss

DISCUSS

Victorian Curriculum, History, Historical Knowledge, Level 56 

View Aunty Marlene Gilson’s painting Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade 2014. Why is Gilson’s perspective an important addition to the Ballarat goldfields narrative?  

Victorian Curriculum, Visual Arts, Respond and Interpret, Level 910 

Victorian Curriculum, History, Historical Knowledge, Level 56 

View Aunty Marlene Gilson’s painting Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade 2014. Discuss how the artist has created meaning and messages in the painting. What cultural and historical factors have influenced her painting? How has she addressed the history of the Ballarat goldrush and the Eureka Rebellion?  

Compare

COMPARE

Victorian Curriculum, History, Historical Knowledge, 56 

Victorian Curriculum, Visual Arts, Respond and Interpret, Level 910 

VCE, Studio Art, Unit 2 Outcome 2  

Compare Aunty Marlene Gilson’s painting Mount Warrenheip and Eureka Stockade 2014 with Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853–54 1884 by Eugene von Guérard. Discuss how each artist has interpreted stories of the Ballarat goldfields? How does the depiction of Australian history differ between the two paintings?  

Create

CREATE

Victorian Curriculum, Visual Arts, Explore and Express Ideas, Level 310 

Victorian Curriculum, Visual Arts, Visual Arts practices, Level 310 

Explore the stories, style, materials and technique of Aunty Marlene Gilson. Create a collage or painting that explores your family history. What stories can you tell? 

Resources

KEY TERMS

Colonial 
The period in history after the British arrived in Australia and established a British colony  

Narrative
A story 

Perspective 
A point of view, looking through someone else’s eyes, experience of others 

Postcolonial 
Postcolonial art refers to art produced in response to the aftermath of colonial rule, frequently addressing issues of national and cultural identity, race and ethnicity. 

Precolonial 
The period in history before the British arrived in Australia and established a British settlement 

Reposition 
To place in a different position, to look at in a different way. 

Recontextualise
To think about things in a new or different way. To see things from another perspective. 

VIDEO

Education kits

Eureka education kit

Eugene von Guérard
education kit

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