Mr Ezzard Flowers and the late Mr Angus Wallam (2015)
Aboriginal Elders Mr Ezzard Flowers and the late Mr Angus Wallam were central figures in consultations with the Noongar community to repatriate the Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup artworks to Australia in May 2013.
The Collection was produced by children of the Stolen Generation at the Carrolup Native Settlement between 1946 and 1951. Years after the Carrolup School had closed, the Collection was sold to New York art collector Herbert Mayer by school benefactor Florence Rutter. Mayer donated them to Colgate University in 1966 and they lay ‘lost’ in storage in the university’s gallery until their rediscovery by a visiting Australian academic in 2004.
In 2012, after years of visiting Australia and learning about Noongar culture, Colgate Professor Ellen Kraly recognised that the Collection belonged in Australia. A year of extensive collaboration between Curtin and Colgate followed, with Mr Flowers and Mr Wallam the central figures in consultations with the Noongar people connected to Carrolup, which resulted in the Collection being brought home.
Mr Wallam had been a caretaker at the Carrolup School. He was dedicated to serving the children and supporting future generations. Mr Flowers was an Indigenous mental health specialist whose focus was on healing and positivity.
Together, with their common bond as members of the Stolen Generation, a passionate commitment to their culture, and a strong belief in preserving a legacy for future generations, they helped to restore more than an art collection – they helped to restore the souls and identity of many of their people.
The intent with which they lived – to enable healing, cultural identity, learning and a better tomorrow for future generations – drove them to a life of serving the community.
Their active, open-minded and open-hearted role in the relationship with Curtin and Colgate - and particularly Professor Kraly and her students who visited Carrolup over many years - resulted in the Collection returning home under safe custodianship. It has also ensured the preservation of the artworks for future generations.
Mr Flowers and Mr Wallam gave much of their personal time and energy to Curtin and Colgate universities over many years.
Mr Flowers continues to be involved as part of the Curtin Carrolup Elders Reference Group, which ensures that the Collection is accessible, used purposefully and in continued service to the community.
Mr Wallam passed away only a short while after the Collection returned home, and his contribution continued up until that time. In recognition of his service and his role in the community, he is an honorary member of Curtin’s Carrolup Elders Reference Group.
The artworks have been an avenue for historical reflection, unearthing stories and family histories, for healing and strengthening culture.
The Collection represents an important part of Noongar history, Western Australian history and Australian history, and the contribution Mr Flowers and Mr Wallam have made to its return home make them both worthy recipients of the John Curtin Medal 2015.