Garth Tinsley shares his experience in the Kimberley

This month, Arts Law completed an outreach trip to the West Kimberley in Western Australia, visiting three art centres. Arts Law lawyers, Rob Bitmead and Roxanne Lorenz were accompanied by Garth Tinsley, special counsel at Lavan.

We all arrived on Sunday afternoon in scenic Broome and were able to soak in some of the beautiful weather and warmth prior to our week on the road. Early Monday morning we set off on a long drive to Fitzroy Crossing, 4.5 hours east of Broome. It was here we met artists at the Mangkaja Arts and Resource Centre. The vibrant colours and variety of artwork matched the energy and engaging conversation of the artists. We spent two days assisting artists with their wills, completing power of attorney and guardian documents, discussing artists rights and speaking with the art centre about issues relating to trademark and governance. We were also able to visit the aged care facility in town, and completed wills with some of the residents.

Early Wednesday morning, 6.30am and already 26 degrees, we explored down the banks of the Fitzroy River at a place called Geikie Gorge. After finalising a few things we drove 2.5 hours west to the town of Derby and visited the famous Mowanjum art centre. Sadly many of the artists were away due to sorry business in the community, but we were able to assist a few artists and art centre workers with preparing their wills and answering questions regarding their rights as artists and how to develop their art businesses. The gallery is a beautiful space, filled with paintings of the famous Wandjina spirit. Through a glorious Kimberley sunset we drove another 2.5 hours west to arrive back in Broome, just in time to view the famous staircase to the moon phenomenon.

Thursday we had another early morning, driving south west 2 hours to Bidyadanga, the largest Aboriginal Community in Australia, with over 750 residents. We were able to enjoy a little drive along the vast and beautiful beach before our meetings. The art centre here is relatively new, and has really expanded quickly during covid. The art is an interesting mix of the vibrant colours of the Kimberley and the softer, earthy tones of the desert. We spoke at length with art centre staff and two of the prominent artists, discussing competition terms and conditions, copyright licensing and access to funding opportunities. After a good day of discussions, we drove back for our final night in Broome.

This was a wonderful trip, with a great diversity of art, country and art centres. After the trip, we sat down with Garth to discuss his experience with Arts Law.

What was your impression of the places you visited? 

I love travelling in regional Australia and working in Aboriginal communities so the opportunity to travel to WA’s Kimberley region and visit Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Bidyadanga and Broome was very appealing. The Kimberley region is now in the build up to the wet season so it was definitely starting to get hot (over 40 degrees in Fitzroy Crossing) but thankfully the humidity hadn’t set in.  Rob, Roxanne and I shared the long drives and dodged a few kangaroos and cows along the way.  The people we met and worked with were fantastic and very grateful for our assistance.  However, the disadvantage and the needs of people were also very evident.  There was a common story of lack of resources and opportunities, especially due to the remoteness of some locations. 

What impact did you feel the outreach trip had? How do you feel you were able to contribute? How do you feel Arts Laws reputation and impact is received/valued by those visited? 

It was immediately apparent that Arts Law has a strong reputation with the arts centres and that our assistance was greatly valued and appreciated.  The trip had positive impact for the Aboriginal artists, the art centres and the broader communities.  We were able to assist immediately with things like wills, enduring power of attorney and enduring guardianship documents for artists, as well as advice to centres about various issues. I felt very comfortable working with Rob and Roxanne and I think we complemented each other in our knowledge and approach to the work.  I manage Lavan’s pro bono practice and I was pleased to take on a number of referrals from the trip, such as assisting with a trademark application and assisting a young artist with other business aspirations.  I also spoke with a variety of people in the communities about their lives, including their achievements, struggles and aspirations.  I am hopeful of building relationships with some of these people and organisations for future impact, such as assisting with kids in high school and providing support to a local men’s group.

What was the highlight of the trip? 

That is such a hard question as there are so many highlights from the trip! I particularly loved speaking with some of the older artists and hearing their stories about their ongoing connection to country and how this is represented in their art.  The stories of some of the artists who were part of the Stolen Generation were also really impactful.  It was also special to receive an invite to go looking for bush tucker, fishing for some barramundi and see more of the beautiful country around Fitzroy Crossing, so hopefully I can take them up on that offer one day!

Would you like to participate in another outreach trip with Arts Law?

Definitely.  I also look forward to facilitating other Lavan lawyers joining the outreach trips. 

Arts Law really values the lawyers and law firms who are able to travel with us on outreach, donating their time and support, providing their legal expertise and take on referrals to assist artists and art centres. Thank you Garth and Lavan and we look forward to delivering many more outreach trips together!