You are here

Newslines Radio: Strong futures for Tiwi Islands – part two


No Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.

Trevor Ellis

Bernard Tipiloura, Tiwi Elder
Alan Kerinaiua, Tiwi artist

9 May 2013

This is part two of the Newslines Radio program on the Tiwi Islands.

Located north of Darwin, the Tiwis are well known as the home of some of the country’s most successful Australian rules footballers, but sport isn’t the only great thing happening in the community.

With the help of Australian Government funding through the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative, the Tiwi people have been kicking lots of goals recently in other areas, like job creation and business success and a flourishing art scene.

In this Newslines Radio program Tiwi elder Bernard Tipiloura and Tiwi artist Alan Kerinaiua talk about the importance of Tiwi history and culture.

“What can make me very happy is to teach somebody our culture, our songs, our language,” Bernard said.

PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Trevor Ellis filling in for Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, an Australian Government program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

The Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, are mostly known for the string of Australian rules footballers that have become renowned as some of the best players of all time, including champions like David Kantilla, Maurice Rioli, Michael Long and current Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli.

However, The Tiwi people have been kicking lots of goals recently in other areas, like job creation and business success and a flourishing art scene. 

Newslines recently visited the home of the Tiwi people to learn about its recent successes. 

Elder Bernard Tipiloura believes the key to the success of the Tiwi people is the strength of Tiwi culture. Bernard has been keen to encourage Tiwi culture and history, not only among his people, but among non-Indigenous Australians. 

TIPILOURA: I go to Toowoomba with my wife every year and I go to St Ursula College and I tell them about Tiwi culture. And some of the students do come up here every year and I guide them around to have a look at Milikapati, to have a look Pirlangimpi and here. And also show them some olden-days cooking like earth cooking with wild pumpkin from the bush.

So this year we’re going to earth cook wild pumpkin at Tiwi College because I want to get students there involved, and the teachers, we’re going to film it and make a documentary out of it. It’s quite rare, wild pumpkin and my ancestors passed it onto us and we earth cook it, leave it overnight and have a feast the next day, as wild pumpkin lasts two weeks as a food.

One of the things I want to pass on is to recognise the family tree. What can make me very happy is to teach somebody our culture, our songs, our language. I make sure all my grandchildren are in family tree in the Land Council. So that’s one goal I want to achieve.

PRESENTER: Bernard is also a passionate supporter of education for Tiwi people to ensure they can play key roles in the management of their country.

TIPILOURA: One of the things we are discussing among ourselves, we have to encourage our young people to get further education so we can run this community ourselves. We want to be self-controlled on this island.

This year I’m on the local shire council so I brought it up that we need to train somebody to be an accountant. To be able to sit with an external accountant to observe what’s going in and what’s going out. 

PRESENTER: That was Tiwi elder Bernard Tipiloura.

We couldn’t do a program on the Tiwi Islands without covering its vibrant art scene. Newslines caught up with leading Tiwi artist Alan Kerinaiua at the Tiwi Art studio to find out more about art on the islands and how he became an artist. 

KERINAIUA: It’s in the blood so I started when I used to like to draw anything, like design or landscape.

I started here back in the early ‘80s, 83/84, and started doing painting and a bit of screen printing. We’re a lot different from the mainland people from the rest of Australia, so we do mainly crosshatching and dots and all them lines.

Today, most of the artists I work with do the old style of paintings and I’m into straightforward work with fine lines and with a fine brush.

PRESENTER: We also asked Alan what inspirations he and other Tiwi artists take from their country.

KERINAIUA: Anything that lives on the land and explain “what’s this”; a snake or a bird and just tell the story. I like to do animals in the land and sea because this is my type of work but other artists will mainly just do circles and crosshatching.

PRESENTER: But for all his success as an artist, Alan still gets the most satisfaction from seeing Tiwi children enthusiastically taking to art, and carrying on the tradition of the elders.

KERINAIUA: We’ve got some little ones that can paint and can draw and I keep on encouraging them, “keep going, you’re doing a good job and just focus on painting and you may get a reward from it when you become a professional artist and sell your art and make me proud.”

So I love to see kids come down and they want to paint and I show them “this is my work” and they can do it by themselves and I keep on encouraging the little ones. The more you learn, the more you pick up.

Art will take you anywhere.

PRESENTER: That was Tiwi artist Alan Kerinaiua.

To find out more about the assistance the Australian Government is providing for the Tiwi Islands in areas like education, employment, art and culture and housing, check out the links on our website,

You can also follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and like on Facebook.

I’m Trevor Ellis, thanks for listening to Newslines Radio.

Find out more

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory is a $3.4 billion investment and responds directly to what Aboriginal people told the Government was important to them.

Stronger Futures is directed to improving the lives of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, particularly those living in remote communities and town camps, who experience much higher levels of disadvantage than anywhere else in Australia.

Share this