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The Promise of Housing

Miriam Charlie
Also named ‘Li Bardawu (The Houses)’, or ‘My Country No Home, Still Waiting’, the collection showcases portraits of First Nations residents and their houses in the gulf town of Borroloola in the Northern Territory.

7 April - 14 May 2022

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this exhibition and images on this webpage may contain the images of people who have passed away. 

This exhibition presents Yanyuwa Garrwa elder Miriam Charlie’s 2019 photographic series, ‘The Promise of Housing’. Also named ‘Li Bardawu (The Houses)’, or ‘My Country No Home, Still Waiting’, the collection showcases portraits of First Nations residents and their houses in the gulf town of Borroloola in the Northern Territory.

House 14 Yanyuwa Camp, by Miriam Charlie, 2019. Polaroid photo with handwritten notes. Courtesy the artist and N.Smith Gallery, Sydney

Building on her 2015 portrait series, ‘My Country No Home’, Charlie’s polaroids represent the housing in Borroloola’s town camps and the residents who must endure broken things while waiting for necessary repairs and new houses. As Charlie states, ‘The Polaroids are like a family photo album but they show the broken things in people’s houses. We have to wait to have these things fixed. Things are broken while we wait for new houses. It’s that waiting business. You’ve got to wait so long.’

Charlie’s photography is complemented in the exhibition by historical materials curated by the Housing for Health Incubator from various archives. The archival materials situate Charlie’s project in a longer history of settler state infrastructural neglect, and as the latest in consistent efforts made by town camp residents to demand sustained attention to housing provision and infrastructural maintenance.

This exhibition was made possible with assistance from Housing for Health Incubator, University of Sydney, Arts NT, Department of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, NT Government - Emerging Artist Grant 2019

Top image: Borroloola sheeting team on single room hutsImage courtesy of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: E460, 1986/82


Gallery Talks and Panel Discussion

Waiting for Infrastructure, Waiting for Bureaucracy

Panel Discussion: Saturday 23 April, 12:30 - 2pm, Tin Sheds Gallery

Discontent over continuing racial segregation at the cemetery. “Letter. Borroloola community members to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs,” 15/10/1987.

Image courtesy of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: E460, 1988/224

This panel is inspired by Yanyuwa Garrwa artist Miriam Charlie’s exhibition, ‘The Promise of Housing’, showing at Tin Sheds Gallery from 6 April to 14 May, 2022. Charlie’s photographic series documents the condition of housing at Borroloola, Northern Territory, while residents wait for necessary repairs and maintenance and new housing stock. Responding to Charlie’s series, panelists Liam Grealy, Jason De Santolo, Andrew Brooks, Astrid Lorange, and Naama Blatman will consider the history, causes, and contemporary experience of bureaucratic delay and waiting, as a symptom of infrastructural inequality in settler colonial Australia. 

Waiting is never neutral. We should always consider: who is required to wait, for how long, and under what conditions? Waiting is the underside of a promise, of an implied social contract or a literal commitment of policy. The promise of repairs, of a hearing, of rights, citizenship, and land back. Waiting for such promises to be delivered is subject to all manner of delay, neglect, and abandonment, by anarchic, punitive, and shapeshifting settler governments. The promise of infrastructure, in particular, is often highly speculative, with commitments compromised and withdrawn, and temporalities of delivery revised and deferred. In queues, with broken things, at borders, and in remote communities, those forced to wait develop and enact tactics of complaint, organising, and refusal that accelerate the provision of infrastructure and reject the legitimacy of that provisioning altogether. 

Speakers: 

  • Liam Grealy – Research Fellow, Housing for Health Incubator, University of Sydney
  • Jason De Santolo (Garrwa and Barunggam) – Director of Indigenous Research, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney
  • Andrew Brooks – Lecturer in the School of Arts & Media, University of New South Wales and Astrid Lorange – Senior Lecturer in the School of Art & Design, University of New South Wales
  • Naama Blatman – Research Theme Fellow Urban Living, Futures & Society, Western Sydney University

Hole in the Ceiling H14, by Miriam Charlie, 2019. Polaroid photo with handwritten notes. Courtesy the artist and N.Smith Gallery, Sydney

Artist Talk

Miriam Charlie

Friday 8 April, 2-3pm, Tin Sheds Gallery

In this talk, Yanyuwa Garrwa artist Miriam Charlie will describe her photographic series ‘The Promise of Housing’, which continues her documentation of housing in the town of Borroloola, Northern Territory. Using Polaroid photography, Charlie represents the health hardware failures that residents are forced to endure in their homes while waiting for requested repairs and new housing to be constructed.

Tin Sheds Gallery

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  • 148 City Road, Darlington Sydney, NSW
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Tin Sheds Gallery