Explore contemporary Indigenous art with QAGOMA Learning


The QAGOMA Learning team delivers professional development programs to empower Queensland teachers with practical and enjoyable approaches to explore contemporary Indigenous art in the Gallery and in the classroom.

Our recent program emerged out of an increase in the number of requests from educators for more on Indigenous perspectives and incorporating this in the classroom respectfully and authentically – at the centre of the program were people, artworks and culture. Our exhibitions Sally Gabori: Land of All, The Gabori Sisters: Gathering by the Sea and Line and Form brought together curators, teachers, learning staff and exclusive content. Teachers, who are trained in the Arts continue to engage with QAGOMA’s Indigenous Australian Art Collection, while a broader base of teachers who are working through the Australian Curriculum are now looking to the Visual Arts as an area to deepen their knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life, culture and country.

The teachers who attended gained insight into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives through presentations from Valerie Rogers and Trish Honeywill, who are members of the QAGOMA Learning Teacher Advisory Group, curators and Tamsin Cull, Head of Public Engagement. Resoundingly, teachers expressed that hearing from the Gallery’s Indigenous Australian Art curators Diane Moon and Bruce McLean, as well as hearing how fellow educators were engaging with their students, were highlights of the professional development program. All presentations and learning resources are available online and onsite, including Children’s Art Centre labels and activities, Sally Gabori Learning resource and the QAGOMA Learning Online Collection Resource.

BLOG_Teacher Program

Practising teachers explored with their students the education resource developed for ‘Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dulka Warngiid – Land of All’. Here is some feedback to the following question that triggered enriching learning experiences:


Use colours, shades, tints and lines to create a pattern that illustrates the rhythm of natural abundance. Consider the movement, sound and energy that can be created when schools of fish come to the surface or flocks of birds pass above treetops.

For many of us, having the opportunity to use artworks by artists such as Sally Gabori to inspire children is wonderful. As is having access to resources that will enhance children’s explorations and experiences with art. Even more relevant, if like me, you have not trained to be an art teacher, but are a teacher of art. The gallery’s online educational resources are designed for all teachers and students. Valerie Rogers

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt people, Australia c.1924–2015 / All the fish 2005 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / Gift of Jim Cousins, ao and Libby Cousins through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013 / Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne / © Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori. Licensed by Viscopy

Rogers focused on Sally Gabori’s All the fish in the education resource to talk about personal stories and connections to places of significance.

We talked about how and why some people feel more connected to certain places than others … we talked about how memories and stories are shared through artworks. Valerie Rogers

Using the ‘See, Think, Wonder’ developed by Harvard’s Visible Thinking, Rogers prompted children’s imaginations through close looking and open discussion.

  • What do you see?’  [To draw attention to details]
  • Stating the artwork title and asking, ‘What do you think it’s about?’ [The scales were flashing in the sunlight. The big circles were the open mouths blowing the bubbles.]
  • Storytelling – the circles represented the bubbles made by schools of fish Sally Gabori remembered feeding at her favourite fishing places on Bentinck Island. Children were fascinated with the number of circles and colours. ‘I wonder how many circles there are?‘ was a common ‘I wonder’ response.

Rogers then shared a video of rain falling on a fish pond. The prep students could see the bubbles and circles. It was the pattern and movement of the circles that seemed to get their attention. They went outside and used watering cans to see if the drops they made were the same spreading, moving circle pattern. Together they watched a tap drip into a container of water to look for moving circles.

Consolidating the students’ observations and explorations, it was time to get their hands on art materials: ‘How could you draw or paint that movement of rain falling? What story would your painting tell?‘ Children were given cartridge paper and the choice of acrylic paint or oil pastel. They had their own tray for mixing paints. Following the completion of their artworks, the class re-visited the concept of storytelling and memory sharing.



Rain is falling on a big pond. The raindrops are making little circles in the pond. I saw more and more circles because it was raining harder.

Another teacher, Trish Honeywill also engaged her Year 4 students with All the fish, drawing inspiration from the education resource to instil in her students ‘the confidence to discuss works that appear quite abstract in nature’.


They examined the painting according to size, its figurative/abstract nature, colour, shape and pattern. After knowing where and how Sally Gabori lived, the teacher asked, ‘does that offer any clues to the painting?’ Together they explored the theme, ‘abundance in nature’ and discussed their own personal experiences:

  • cicadas at dusk
  • parrots roosting/nesting at dusk – garden/shopping centre carpark
  • water running through a stream, gutters
  • a storm breaking after a hot day or drought; and
  • fish feeding /fish farm

The students were invited to close their eyes and listen to 4 audio tracks – and to think of the colour, shapes and surface patterns and movement that the sounds brought to mind. Rather than a descriptive figurative image, the students were to interpret the sounds they were hearing. Tearing or cutting paper first to create a collage, they then added paint to think about the types of marks and strokes they created, developing further the use of colour. Free exploration

BLOG_Storm Breaking image

BLOG_Artwork-student 2
Response to audio of a storm breaking a drought

Overall these two classroom examples reflected the important role of QAGOMA as a catalyst for cultural and arts learning in Queensland schools.

Reflecting on the educator feedback received, many attendees reported they would expand their own confidence in teaching with and through Indigenous Australian art in the following ways:

  • ‘I can take back to the classroom an added knowledge and understanding of Indigenous art and I’m inspired to learn more’
  • ‘As we have Aurukun students at school – I now feel more capable of interacting with them’
  • ‘I can use the program in teaching art, art history and even bring in geography when discussing Sally Gabori’
  • ‘I can share the program with other teachers in the department’
  • ‘I have the confidence to develop new programs and to reinforce current programs/reflection’

Creative Generation celebrates 10 years at GOMA

Mr Mark Ryan, Assistant Minister of State Assisting the Premier, officially opened the Awards (centre) with Professor Sue Street AO, Chair of the Queensland Art Gallery Board of Trustees, Chris Saines CNZM, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery and Terry Deen, Head of Learning with all the artists

As we prepare to celebrate GOMA’s tenth birthday, it’s interesting to see that many of the works in this year’s Awards draw on the repeated motif of memory.

Memories – digital, flooded and spliced ­– abound as subjects for this year’s work. A wonderful example – Alex Boundy’s Royal, a moving video portrait the artist’s great–grandmother, considers the great wealth or memories we accumulate in a lifetime, and their ephemeral nature.

blog-Alex Boundy-300dpi A4

Alex Boundy, Varsity College / Royal
Artist Statement: This is Una Royal Price, my 96-year-old great-grandmother; loved by her 11 children, 23 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren and two greatgreat-grandchildren. I call her GG. A week after filming, she was moved from her home of 42 years. My grandmother had never seen her cry, until then. Her life stories are locked behind a wall of dementia; stories of two world wars and the Great Depression. She lost a husband, four children and her mother at birth. Before she died, her mother gave her the middle name ‘Royal’. Maybe she knew that, one day, GG would be our queen.

Other overarching themes in this year’s exhibition include childhood, home and identity; human experience, religion and beliefs; and environmental and societal commentary.

The works on display were selected in 2015 from senior visual art students across the state and have great regional scope, from the Far North to the Gold Coast to the Darling Downs. The entry wall to the exhibition proudly displays the 33 artists’ names and their districts.


These artists were selected from a total of 522 entries submitted by students from regional and metropolitan schools.  Their works are representative of the interplay between concept and process in senior visual art classrooms throughout Queensland.

It is pleasing to see there has been a steady increase of students visiting the Creative Generation exhibition in recent years, reflecting the high value that schools – and students – are placing on the visual arts.  Schools are encouraged to visit this year’s Awards to continue the upward trend.

The role of the teachers cannot be undervalued in preparing the artists for selection.  The relationships that are fostered throughout the school community – from teacher to student to family – were alive and well at the recent opening of the exhibition.


Mr Mark Ryan, Assistant Minister of State Assisting the Premier, officially opened the Awards, and congratulated all the artists on the incredible achievement of having their work displayed in a Gallery of such international standing – something many artists aspire to achieve but never have the opportunity.

This year, the Awards feature an interactive digital catalogue with artwork information and images – the individual artist statements are also displayed throughout the space. Teachers and students can download a copy of the Artists’ Statements to explore before a class excursion.

These young people represent the artists and creative thinkers of the future and it’s exciting to see them exploring and engaging with visual culture and ideas.


Matthew Harvey, Bray Park State High School / Unharnessed
Artist Statement: Everybody has an identity which not only defines who we are, but sculpts how we think and feel. This artwork reflects my background, having spent much of my childhood on rural properties. This drawing of a cow halter represents what has become a significant aspect of my identity as a young person living and working in a rural environment. After viewing the work of CJ Hendry, I was inspired to create a large scale drawing. I have created tonal contrast using black fine point pens and a stippling technique.


William Mather, Brisbane Grammar School / Goodnight, I’ll stay here
Artist Statement: I like to perceive my home and the people in it as being within a state of static peacefulness. In my series, Goodnight, I’ll stay here, I explore this concept through a focus of voyeurism and contrasting images of occupancy and vacancy, which evoke a feeling of peace. I drew inspiration from artist Gregory Crewdson when taking these photos. Although I’m not Aboriginal Australian, I pay homage to the works of some favourite Aboriginal artists, such as Lin Onus, by reflecting my own spiritual connection towards my home within my hand-stippled recreation of the contained atmosphere represented.

Creative Generation Excellence Awards in Visual Art
View the exhibition at GOMA until 14 August 2016.

The Creative Generation Excellence Awards in Visual Art is an initiative of the Department of Education and Training, supported by QAGOMA

Students experience world cultures and histories through APT8



Students from St Agnes Primary School, Brisbane interact with Nge Lay’s The sick classroom 2013

The development of educational resources at QAGOMA is a collaborative endeavour – and a very enjoyable one.

Learning staff work closely with curators, as well as film editors, and design and multimedia teams to create relevant and fun resources for schools. The process is authentic in its relevance to the classroom, as evident in questions and activities generated by teacher specialists from QAGOMA Learning’s Teacher Advisory Group.

It is important to us to create meaningful resources that empower teachers to design a visit that will bring artworks to life for their students – both at QAGOMA and in the classroom.

For those teachers new to The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) – be prepared for its large scale and transformative nature. The artworks will have a high impact on student visitors, creating lasting memories.

In this APT, students can be captivated in a similar fashion by large scale installations by artists Asim Waqif and Haegue Yang, who use wood and venetian blinds respectively, or be mesmerised by Yumi Danis (We Dance), which features song and dance from Melanesia.

For APT8, one of the challenges for staff was to consider ways of translating performance, video and kinetic art through a printed resource. The inclusion of short video introductions by curators assisted to demonstrate the participatory nature of performance and movement being explored by exhibiting artists.

So why not investigate the resources yourself?

There are customised Student Resources and Teacher Resources for primary and secondary levels, as well as a generic School Resource suitable for all levels with hyperlinks in the school resource to the curatorial video introductions.

Nge Lay, Myanmar b.1979 / The sick classroom 2013 / 27 wooden sculptures, timber walls, 8 desks, 26 student accessories, 1 table, 1 chair; 15 photographs, ed. 1/5; 20-channel video, ed. 1/5 / Proposed for the Queensland Art Gallery Collection / © The artist

School Resource (suitable for all levels)
Primary Student Resource
Primary Teacher Resource
Secondary Student Resource
Secondary Teacher Resource

Video introductions
Introduction to APT8
Yumi Danis (We Dance) project

APT8 is a must-see exhibition for students of the Arts, Humanities and Languages. The interactive activities in APT8 Kids mean that students can form their own personal connections to art and ideas from the Asia Pacific region.

We invite educators to meet curators and APT8 artists at the upcoming teacher professional development program arranged by QAGOMA Learning- a popular event every February to kick start the school year.

APT8 Look Out Teacher Program
Saturday 6 February 2016
Book online

The accompanying APT8 publication features a suite of richly illustrated essays and a children’s book accompanies APT8 Kids onsite.

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)
is the Gallery’s flagship exhibition focused on the work of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia
APT8 Education Major Sponsor: Santos GLNG

Interact, Create, Educate with APT7

Students explore a project by APT7 artist collective Ruangrupa

Are you looking for some new ideas and inspiration for your classroom? Why not visit The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7) with your students for an engaging, educational learning experience! The Gallery has developed a range of education resources for you and your students.

APT7 education resources address a range of cross-curriculum areas, in particular political, economic and cultural issues and Brisbane’s geographical position in the region. APT7 promotes Intercultural Understanding, allowing teachers to delve deeper and move from learning about cultural content to engaging with diverse cultural perspectives.

APT7 Education Resources

Worksheets are available for both primary and secondary levels, featuring art work images and questions for consideration during self-guided visits. Teachers who make a school booking in advance receive printed copies of student worksheets and accompanying teacher notes.

Primary students will explore the theme: Materials, building and sustainability | Students will examine types of structures (temporary and permanent), that are playful, sculptural and culturally significant. They will explore materials, purposes, cultural importance and method of construction.

Secondary students will explore the theme: Reinterpreting cultural histories | Students will consider the way artists use historic and cultural symbols and reinterpret them to offer new meanings. Ranging from cultural symbolism and the appropriation of imagery, to investigations of colonialism, ethnicity and nationalism.

APT7 Student video project_session 1 Richard Maloy_group interview_2_72dpix570w
Artist Richard Maloy is interviewed by students during the installation of his work |Richard Maloy, New Zealand b.1977 | Big Yellow 2012 | Cardboard, paint, wood | Site-specific work for APT7 | Courtesy: The artist and Sue Crockford Gallery, Auckland

Students’ Choice video: Students talking to Richard Maloy.

Students’ Choice | School groups can view short videos of students describing selected APT7 art works in their own words. Students are invited to scan the QR code on their APT7 worksheet or view the videos online.

School groups can also explore Kids’ APT7, offering students further insights into contemporary art across the Asia Pacific region. The Kids’ APT7 projects are displayed in spaces at both the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), including the Children’s Art Centre at GOMA and online.

Ruangrupa, Indonesia, Est. 2000: Ade Darmawan b.1974, Reza Afisina b.1977, Indra Kusuma b.1974, Iswanto Hartono b.1972 | The Kuda: The Untold Story of Indonesian Underground Music in the 70s 2012 | Commissioned for APT7 | Courtesy: The artists
Ruangrupa, Indonesia, Est. 2000: Ade Darmawan b.1974, Reza Afisina b.1977, Indra Kusuma b.1974, Iswanto Hartono b.1972 | The Kuda: The Untold Story of Indonesian Underground Music in the 70s 2012 | Commissioned for APT7 | Courtesy: The artists