The Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place (ACCKP) was built in 1988 along with many other Aboriginal cultural centres and keeping places which were approved for funding under the Bicentennial Program grant in 1986. The ACCKP was completed in 1988 and the Centre was opened on the 26th November of the same year.
The Centre has grown from strength to strength over the years and although many of the other Aboriginal cultural centre and keeping places throughout NSW have since closed down, the Armidale centre has thrived drawing local and international visitors.
Currently, we work with over 100 Aboriginal artists and 10 Aboriginal galleries from all over NSW. We have 20 changing exhibitions a year which bring in over 17,000 visitors from all over the world. The Centre has also been included in the Lonely
Planet Travel Guide bringing many European, American, Asian and South American tourists. The ACCKP has significant collections of genealogy, artworks and artefacts. As a cultural centre it presents an annual community focused public program.
This is my thirteenth year as the Director of the ACCKP.
Thirteen years ago when I walked into the Centre, there were paint spills, old newspapers lying about, empty walls, bare display cabinets laid out haphazardly and dusty surfaces. I was given a four month contract with hardly any budget. I had to use creative ways to first make the place presentable for the public, create programs that are easy to implement before focusing on bringing policies and procedures to current standards. To move forward with the times, I had to update all our technology.
Time has flown by and let’s fast forward to today. We are now a vibrant Aboriginal cultural centre and a thriving business but we are not sitting on our laurels.
Over the past thirteen years, we have worked hard at connecting the community to the Centre. We now operate at full capacity with all our programs running regularly. Through our full range of public programs such as the Aboriginal Men’s group, Aboriginal Women’s group, Black and White Photography Club meetings, visual art exhibitions, photographic exhibitions, artefact exhibitions, holiday programs, cultural workshops, Family History research activities, Friends of the ACCKP functions and cultural tours, we have seen the diversity of the community use our centre. Aboriginal arts and culture is empowering individuals and healing our community. Those who were and have been disconnected are re-establishing friendships and forming lasting relationships. I am proud to say that our Centre and our programs are playing an important part in this process.
Our business activities are also growing. We hire out our space for meetings and functions, cater for these functions, run a café, operate a gift shop and sell artworks from our Artists’ Boutique and gallery.
Our Master Plan is for the Centre to be a place that is traditional in its values yet modern in its operation. This plan is coming to fruition. We are developing, promoting and preserving Aboriginal arts and culture in the community through our Centre. At the same time, we stay technologically advanced by using modern touchscreens and iPads in the delivery of some of our programs. These modern devices are interactive so that school children and visitors can experience the exhibitions, collections and different aspects of the culture in an interactive manner.
Our vision is to be a leader in the running of a sustainable, vibrant Aboriginal arts and cultural centre and keeping place while our mission is to develop, promote and preserve Aboriginal arts and culture by engaging with community through the operation of a professional art gallery and cultural centre that is inspired locally but has national and international appeal.
This momentous year of our 30th anniversary has seen us get a grant of $846,000 through the Regional Cultural Fund administered by Create New South Wales. This grant is being used to complete a second gallery which was started in 1999. It has taken 19 years for more funds to come our way to complete such a significant project that has manifold positive outcomes for Aboriginal artists, the Aboriginal communities in the New England North West region, the Armidale wider communities, local, national and international tourists and schools.
On Saturday, 17 th November 2018, we celebrated the Centre’s 30 th anniversary. The celebrations started at 12noon with a smoking ceremony, Welcome to Country, flag- raising, traditional Aboriginal dance and didgeridoo playing. This was followed by Aboriginal markets, concert, Language Lab, workshops, food stalls and a children’s carnival with treasure hunt, story-telling and footy passing challenge run by the Narwan Rugby League Club players. Local Aboriginal artisans sold their ware at the markets. Kathy Kelly, Terra Firma and other local musicians performed at the concert. The Language lab was a 30-minute workshop run by the Anaiwan Language Revival Program. The workshops were demonstrations of basket weaving by Gabby Widders, painting by Tyler Styackman and music production by Nate Weatherall. At 4.30pm, we opened three exhibitions which were the Celebration of Heritage: New England Aboriginal Art Award, Karrali Sweet Black Baby and Aboriginal Families of Armidale which was a photographic exhibition. We also launched our 30 th anniversary: A Celebration of Heritage publication. It was a fun filled celebration with the involvement of the local Aboriginal and wider communities.