29 November
Robyn Ayres and Jessica Horn with artist Betty Muffler at Iwantja Art Centre.  © Desart Photo by Jasper Coleman 2019.

Arts Law in the APY Lands

Earlier this month Arts Law CEO, Robyn Ayres, travelled to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands) with King & Wood Mallesons partner Travis Toemoe, King & Wood Mallesons solicitor and current secondee to Arts Law Jessica Horn and Desart program officer Jasper Coleman. The APY Lands are located in the remote north west of South Australia and comprise a vast area across which there are many communities. The purpose of the week-long trip was to provide legal services to some of the art centres and artists in these remote communities.

The team arrived in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, before driving into South Australia to visit Iwantja Art Centre in Indulkana, Mimili Maku Art Centre in Mimili and Ernabella Art Centre in Pukatja. At these art centres, Robyn, Travis and Jessica worked with local artists to draft wills and helped the art centre managers with contractual and other legal issues. The art centres in the APY Lands feature artists of extraordinary calibre, and it was a privilege for the team to speak with them. Among the many eminent artists the lawyers worked with was Peter Mungkuri, Alec Baker, Vincent Namatjira, Kaylene Whiskey, Betty Muffler, Tuppy Goodwin, Robert Fielding and Pepai Carroll.

In an intersection of Arts Law’s work, and the wider issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the team were working in the communities while the Anangu people held protests about Kumanjayi Walker’s death in custody at Yuendumu. During an emotionally charged time, the art centres were very welcoming and the artists were consistently supportive of the work Arts Law was doing. The message conveyed by the artists was that the lawyers were providing crucial legal services and without Arts Law those legal services would be inaccessible.

“For me, the trip to the APY Lands threw into stark relief the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in these remote communities do not have the same access to legal service as artists in metropolitan areas. Arts Law’s outreach trips are invaluable; they fill that gap in access by providing high quality legal advice. I am very thankful to Arts Law for giving me the opportunity to go on one of these trips. It was an extraordinary professional and personal experience, and one which I have no doubt will influence my work as a lawyer going forward”

Jessica Horn, King & Wood Mallesons solicitor and current secondee to Arts Law

Outreach trips are a critical part of Arts Law’s Artists in the Black program. Arts Law was very fortunate to have the support of Desart, and especially Jasper Coleman who organised the logistics and drove hours each day to enable the lawyers to reach the art centres.