The art of kindness and strength

1 June 2018

Step inside the Peter Baume Building and you will see the vibrant artwork of local painter Sarah Richards. Sarah is a Nyiampaa descendant of the Wongaibon tribe. Her work was selected by the two Indigenous trainees Tylah Saunders and Rachelle Hammond as part of a project to bring local Indigenous art into the work spaces of the Joint Colleges of Science Administration team. Tylah and Rachelle spotted Sarah’s artwork at Burrunju Aborginal Corporation. Now they are on display in the Peter Baume Building, the paintings give a warm welcome to students from Indigenous backgrounds, staff and visitors. Rachelle spoke to Sarah about her paintings and the idea of reconciliation. 

Rachelle Hammond and Tylah Saunders

How did you become interesting in painting?

I have been interested in painting since school when Aboriginal artists would come out during NAIDOC week but am mainly a self-taught artist. I stopped painting for a couple of years whilst I was at university but picked it back up in my final years and have been painting regularly for nearly 8 years now.

Tell me about the artworks that you created for the Peter Baume Building?

The artworks I created for the Peter Baume Building were part of my first collection of paintings following my decision to paint about what I value and my stories. Kindness and Strength are paintings that express two of my values. I believe we should not only be kind to others but be kind to ourselves and have the strength to challenge the status quo.

Aunty Matilda House and Sarah Richards with ‘Mimi Spirit Dreaming’ by Gregory Joseph.

What are the main influences in your artwork?

My personal life journey and interpretation of those experiences and feelings into artwork.

What does Reconciliation mean to you?

Reconciliation to me means accepting the repercussions of events of the past and recognising that intergenerational trauma is a thing. Reconciliation Week to me means it's time for all Australians to stop placing the responsibility of reconciliation on another and start doing their own part in the reconciliation journey.

Who are your greatest role models?

My role models include women like Sheryl Sandberg and Zoe Routh whose books have helped me through difficult times and provided me with tools to navigate those difficult times in one’s life. And Marianne Hynes, the COO of PIC where I work, who has supported and encouraged my development in recent years.

Sarah Richards' paintings are on display in the Peter Baume Building (Building 42) on the Australian National University campus.