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Gilbun (Mabel Downs), 2018

by Shirley Purdie

“This story for when my mum, aunty and my grandmother, and a school teacher – that gardiya (white) woman, they bin take (her) up there. And they reckon when she been laying down under one of the tree, she bin get all them kangaroo ticks – he a big one, that kangaroo tick, he make you sore and you gotta pull him out. All this lot (my family) picked them out of her. She was red after that.”

Gilbun Hill is a large hill in present day Mabel Downs. Shirley’s family would often spend leisure time there, and on this occasion, her mother, aunt, and grand-aunt (also referred to as a grandmother) took a school teacher for a visit. The hill is special to Gija people because it is a special burial site; in the past, when the Gija people who lived there died, their remains were wrapped in paperbark and placed in a nearby cave.

Courtesy of Shirley Purdie (Nangari) and Warmun Art Centre

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the land upon which the NPG stands.