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Ernabella ceramicist and painter wins $50,000 Red Ochre award


Multi-disciplinary artist and APY Lands community leader Alison Milyika Carroll has been awarded the national Red Ochre Lifetime Achievement Award for four decades of work that has been exhibited as far afield as London, Shanghai and Singapore.

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The Red Ochre Award is presented by the Australia Council for the Arts to a senior male and a senior female Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artist for their outstanding lifetime achievement in the arts.

Caroll’s artistic practice  spans batik, ceramics and painting, with her work held in public and private collections all around the world.

“Her artwork communicates both Walka (design) and Tjukurpa (Law, Story and Dreaming)… Alison is an important advocate, leader and mentor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and arts across the APY Lands,” the Australia Council said in a statement.

“Alison takes both old and new styles, melding them together to make her own unique visual language.”

Carroll chairs Australia’s oldest Indigenous community arts centre, Ernabella Arts in the Pukatja Community in the far north-west of South Australia, and has held various titles with Ku Arts, NPY Women’s Council and APY Lands Council. 

She is also a member of the Ernabella Choir and is a trained health worker who advocates for strengthening mental health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Caroll told InDaily she was “very happy” to win the award and will spend the money with her family.

She also looks forward to the Ernabella Arts centre re-opening so she can continue making art with her community.

“[Making art] is important for Aboriginal people and white people to tell stories,” she said.

View this post on Instagram

Enjoy watching Alison and her grandchildren receiving and opening her award in the remote community of Ernabella in the APY Lands. Alison was awarded the prestigious Red Ochre Award Lifetime Achievement at The National Indigenous Arts Awards ‪on 27 May 2020‬. The Australian Council for the Arts awarded her this for lifetime achievements as an artist, cultural leader, and for her many contributions to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts. #AusCouncilArts #CreativityConnectsUs #FNAA2020

A post shared by Ernabella Arts (@ernabella_arts_pukatjapottery) on

APY Lands general manager Richard King said communities across the region would celebrate the acknowledgment of Carroll’s career.

“It is always an occasion to celebrate when respected leaders from remote areas are recognised for their work,” he said in a social media post.

“Quite often our remote Aboriginal leaders are involved in many areas of leadership and the awards bestowed upon them do not always show the full extent of their work across their communities. 

“It is always a pleasure to see one of our leaders receive such a prestigious award in recognition of what they do on a daily basis.”

Ku Arts CEO Marie Falcinella said she was thrilled Carroll’s lifetime achievements had been commemorated as her contribution to Ernabella Arts and Pukatja community is profound.

“This extends to her work with us as Anangu Mayatja (Director) at Ku Arts where she provides strategic and cultural leadership to myself as CEO and to our organisation, as well as the many other cultural organisations she contributes to as a board and committee member,” Falcinella said.

“It is a well-deserved honour.”

The other 2020 recipient of the Red Ochre Lifetime Achievement Award was Bandjalung man Djon Mundine, a founding member of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA). 

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