Proclamation Day Arch Project - 2002
A reconciliation event in the WA Museum Foyer 21 October 2001
This was a project to recreate one of the Proclamation Day Arch's that lined the streets of Perth to greet Governor Robinson when he returned to Perth with the Declaration of Responsible Government on October 21st, 1890.
The idea came from a photographic album, picturing many of the arch's, which is one of the only things handed down through my family. It had belonged to my great grandmother Charlotte Markwell, who worked as a ladies maid to Lady Robinson. Charlotte had been born in York in 1854, to an Irish Immigrant girl and an English Freeman/warder who had both arrived in the colony a few years before. She accompanied Governor and Lady Robinson on a trip to Egypt and London and then returned with
them to Western Australia for their third term. Her photo album records this trip and the homecoming into Perth. Her sister Maria also worked as a maid at Government House, and Charlotte married the
caretaker Frank Tolland in 1902. The French carriage clock in this display was given to Charlotte in thanks for accompanying the Robinson's on their European journey. It has been handed down to my
father Tony Darbyshire who kindly agreed to loan it for this exhibition.
Clearly Proclamation Day in 1890 meant a lot to my great grandmother and certainly our family has continued to be proud of being Western Australians benefiting in many ways from the colonisation of this land.
Exactly 111 years later, Proclamation Day - on Sunday, October 21st 2001, another Arch was constructed; one which had the theme of Reconciliation. Artist Andrea Williams collaborated with me to explore ideas about what Proclamation day meant for her Nyoongar family.
The arches, built with local and natural materials, symbolized a passage, a gateway or threshold through to a new understanding and identity. However it was at the cost of genocide for Indigenous
people. Non-indigenous West Australians cannot cross into a real understanding of 'Responsible' government unless we acknowledge our Colonial actions and that we benefit from those colonial actions in contemporary society.
What did Responsible Government mean for Aboriginal people in WA? The major impact of 'Responsible Government' for Western Australian Aboriginal peoples was that the new State Government, under the premiership of Sir John Forrest, was determined to rid the constitution of Section 70. Section 70 was a British Government law stating that a condition of Responsible Government be that 1 per cent or 500 Pounds per annum of the colonial budget had to be spent on
Aboriginal Welfare. John Forrest spent ten years fighting against Section 70 and when the Colony became a state in 1890 this law was abandoned. A recent claim was made by Aboriginal elders Crow Yougaria, Snowy Judamia, Paddy Yarbaria, Leslie Ankie and Billy Thomas from Strelley to redress this. They lost their legal battle in the High Court in 2001.
By coincidence one of Andreas great great grandfathers brothers', Billy 'Noongale' Kickett, who together with Tommy Windich, accompanied John and Alexander Forrest on their overland journey from Perth to Adelaide in 1870. This exploratory voyage led eventually to the establishment of an overland telegraph link between Western Australia and the other states. Kickett lived with his family, and Andrea's great great grandfather James Kickett, in Beverley, dying there at the age of fifty-two, after negligence on the part of the town's doctor. Forrest erected a tombstone over his grave to commemorate the contribution he had made to the development of the state and a medical
inquiry was held into the medical care given to Aborigines in the town. At this time aboriginal people could not gain redress for wrongs committed against them. No action was brought against the
This exhibition contained a photograph of Andrea's great grandmother Lilly Williams (nee Burchill) who was born around 1886. Lily's mother was a fullblood woman called Toolbium who married a Scottish Immigrant Alexander Moir. The photo showed Lily and her extended family who lived on Gnowangerup Mission in the 1920's.
Another photograph showed Andreas maternal great great grandfather John Penny, also taken at the Gnowangerup Mission by photographer Norman Tinsdale who was sent by the South Australian Museum, to record Aboriginal people of the area, in 1938. He was 74 years old. The third photo showed Johns' son Christopher Penny, his grand-daughter Mary Penny (Andreas grandmother) and great grandson Barry Penny, at the Mission in the late 1940's.
John Penny's spear or kaddich was featured in the exhibition. It had been handed down in the family to Aden Eades who has kindly loaned it or the exhibition. Andrea has been made custodian for many of her mothers' family's photographs.
Many people contributed to the making of the Proclamation Day Arch 2001 and I would like to thank especially Francine Kickett for her contribution of the artwork on the banner, Andrea Witcombe, staff and students from the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage at Curtin University, Nien Schwarz and sculpture and painting students from the School of Visual Arts, Edith Cowan University, Julie Robert from the Bannister Creek Catchment Group, Karl Karu from Leighton Contractors, Bronwyn Ryan from the Water and Rivers Commissions Environmental Educators Network. Special thanks also to Museum Staff; Matt Trinca who as the History Curator has provided much support for the project,
and contributed his own research to the text, Moya Smith, Curator of Anthropology, who said 'yes' to us using artefacts from the collection, Ross Chadwick and Anna Edmundson who made them available,
Douglas Elford who copied the old photographs and Tim Eastwood, Dennis and Greg from Exhibitions Development who built the framework. Also thanks to our families for giving us plant material, and allowing us information and artefacts; Suzi and Warwick Wild,Tony and Jo Darbyshire, Darryl Kickett, Josephine Williams, Dr Anna Haebich, Aden Eades, and Liza and Bill Woods.
The 6 tons of bush needed to make the Arch was sourced from bush about to be cleared for a Roe Highway extension. The same common WA plants; Eucalypts, Acacias, and Banksias were all used on the original Arch's built in 1980. Where the bush was easily picked from the Perth town area then, this bush is rare now.
Please read a review: Jo Darbyshire, The Proclamation Day Arch - visual artists in the museum, A paper delivered at 'Undisciplined Thoughts', Humanities Postgraduate Research Conference (5th: 2001: Curtin University). Paper in: History and Native Title, Choo, Christine and Hollbach, Shawn (eds.), Studies in Western Australian History, no.23, 2003, p.213-216 (ISSN: 0314-7525)