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Cootamundra girls farewell Namatjira painting

State Records hosts ceremony for former Cootamundra girls to handover Albert Namatjira painting to National Museum of Australia
Representatives of State Records, National Museum of Australia, Dept of Community
Representatives of State Records, National Museum of Australia,
Dept of Community Services & Cootamundra Girls' Home
with Albert Namatjira painting; photograph by Mervyn Bishop

The Government Records Repository hosted a ceremony for representatives of the Cootamundra Girls' Home, who presented a painting by renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The painting, Arreyonga Paddock, James Range, was officially handed over to the museum by former Cootamundra girls Lola Edwards, Kathy Boreham and Jean Begg on 6 June 2009 at the Western Sydney Records Centre in Kingswood. At the ceremony Lola spoke movingly to those present of her experiences as a young girl at the home, including her memories of the Namatjira visit.

former Cootamundra girl, Lola Edwards, with painting by Albert Namitjira
Former Cootamundra girl Lola Edwards remembers the visit
by Albert Namatjira to the home in 1956; photograph by Mervyn Bishop

Namatjira visited the Cootamundra Girls' Home in 1956 and a year later presented the girls with the painting, which then hung in the main dormitory for many years. Following the closure of the girls home, the painting was held in the head office of the Department of Community Services before being handed over to the former Cootamundra girls in 1998 by then Minister for Community Services Faye Lo Po. Since that time the painting has been stored at the Government Records Repository in Kingswood on behalf of the Department of Community Services, with an agreement that it was not to be retrieved without a release form signed by two former girls' home residents.

The painting 'Arreyonga Paddock, James Range' by Albert Namitjira given to Cootamundra Girls' Home
The painting Arreyonga Paddock, James Range by Albert Namatjira;
photograph by Mervyn Bishop

'We wanted it put into a safe place, and it has come out for a few special occasions such as NAIDOC Week, but it's now time to bring it out into the light permanently', said Lola Edwards who, with Kathy Boreham, was a co-signatory on the release form. The Director-General of the Department of Community Services, Jennifer Mason, was also at the event as a signatory to the official handover of the painting to the Museum.

Preparing Namitjira painting for transport to Canberra
National Museum staff & Cootamundra girls prepare painting
for transport to Canberra; photograph by Mervyn Bishop

Lola Edwards has been a member of the Exhibition Advisory Group for the In Living Memory exhibition, and exhibition photographer Mervyn Bishop took photos on the day to record the special event.