• Neville Brown, for Asher Millgate's SURVIVORS exhibition. (Asher Millgate)Source: Asher Millgate
Exhibition tells stories of SURVIVORS - elders and elders-in-waiting at Nanima mission, the longest operating Aboriginal mission in central New South Wales.
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11 Nov 2015 - 8:28 PM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2015 - 12:08 PM

For more than 40 years, Neville Brown has fought for the rights and services for Aboriginal people in Australia.

At the age of 14 he was taken by local authorities from a café in Dubbo for wagging school. He was kept away from his family for 18 months and after serving his time, he tried to make his way back home to see his family.

But his journey back was interrupted when he was nabbed by a wheat farmer and forced into working with no wage.

'I don’t believe the words ‘a stolen generation’. I reckon a stolen culture is a better word ...'

"I don’t believe the words 'a stolen generation'. I reckon a stolen culture is a better word, because when they came we couldn’t do nothing, we couldn’t speak our own language or nothing," Neville Brown says.

Neville's is just one of 18 stories featured in an exhibition that captures the lives of traditional owners, the Binjang People of the Wiradjuri Nation.

SURVIVORS is the story of elders and elders-in-waiting and life at Nanima mission, the longest operating Aboriginal mission in central New South Wales.  

It is a glimpse into the lives of Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and into government agencies and church missions, forced to live lives of displacement and ultimately suffering the loss of identity.

The Stolen Generations have become more widely recognised since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the Apology in 2008. But many people have still not heard the unique and individual stories of these children so grievously affected by previous Government policies which forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families.

But many people have still not heard the unique and individual stories of these children so grievously affected by previous Government policies ...

SURVIVORS is the result of years of hard work, passion and self-reflection for Sydney-based artist, Asher Millgate. Asher is a non-Indigenous man who grew up in Wellington. Growing up there, he thought he knew Aboriginal people, their lives, their struggles and their experiences. Some of his best mates are Aboriginal.

But it wasn’t until he went to Sydney that he began to understand the widespread ignorance of non-Indigenous Australia towards the nation's First Peoples.

At university, I couldn’t believe some of the things I heard people say, how ignorant they were," Asher Millgate said.

"Most people I found relied on the media to inform their views on Aboriginal Australia. I gradually came to recognise the establishment's casual racism and the mainstream's colonial disdain. It unsettled me."

Inspired by this recognition of the gulf between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, as well as his passion for photography, Asher began his journey back home to share the stories of Wellington’s survivors. He approached each storyteller with care and instilled trust to let their stories flow and flourish.

As the SURVIVORS exhibition has continued throughout central NSW, it has been clear that this project has resonated with many. 

The black and white portraits reflect life growing up on the mission. Each portrait is joined by interactive audio which pays respect to the oral tradition of passing on knowledge. 

November 20, 2015 is Universal Children’s Day and marks 25 years since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It means children are recognised as right holders - something that these children were not protected by, yet they somehow survived.

November 20, 2015 is Universal Children’s Day and marks 25 years since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It means children are recognised as right holders - something that these children were not protected by, yet they somehow survived.

Today we can all listen and learn from these stories of survivors: young Aboriginal children, their families, love, hope and resilience.

Asher says that he hopes his work will create understanding, respect and acceptance.

"My work seeks to preserve the beliefs of these great people, their legends and traditions. A catalyst for healing; a reminder of who we are; of who we were, so we can see more completely where we want to be."

For more information about the exhibition, visit www.survivors.net.au. You can also listen to audio files of the individuals featured at survivors.net.au/topics/womensurvivors.net.au/topics/men.