the conciliation and the national picture

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‘The Conciliation’, 1840, shows a single white man, George Augustus Robinson, amidst a group of local, traditionally portrayed and behaving Tasmanian Aborigines.

The main purpose of the text is to explain and present the initial reaction and effect that occurred when George Robinson was first sent on his journey to Tasmania to conciliate with and relocate the Aborigines there. The text is showing what happened before the actual event of moving them, and their initial views and outlooks on the situation. The text helps to visually express the scene of what happened when Robinson arrived and the confusion and curiosity of the Aboriginal people.

The main visual elements in the text are made up of the people’s positions and expressions. The body language shown is important in the understanding of the text.

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There are a lot of different perspectives and views shown in the Aborigines faces on the issue of George Robinson’s proposal, and whether they want to trust him or not.

The Aborigines closest to Robinson, such as the man on his right which is shaking his hand, and the two women pointing towards him, suggest that they are trustworthy and want to accept him and cooperate with his ideas and proposition. Whereas there are other Aborigines in the picture, that appear not so sure about the whole idea. The man which is standing behind yet slightly to the right of Robinson and has the other man’s hand on his shoulder, doesn’t appear to want to trust him. The Aborigine, who is shaking his hand and appears trusting, is looking towards the other man and showing that he wants to respect Robinson, yet the one behind is looking at this man like he doesn’t want to get involved and telling him by facial expression that it doesn’t sound like such a good idea. Another man who is kneeling behind the two pointing women also shows this. They seem to want to trust Robinson as well, yet the kneeling Aboriginal man is reaching towards the closest woman’s shoulder as in to hold her back and not to trust this white stranger.

There are other figures in the text which don’t appear to want to have anything to do with the situation, such as the two men who are sitting on the ground and are clearly only focusing on their traditional hunting ways and preparing for a hunt by fixing up their spears. The animals in the text also represent their traditional lifestyle of hunting, their wildlife and what they hunted, (such as the kangaroo).

George Augustus Robinson is portrayed as wanting to appear a trusting, sincere man and gain the Aborigines respect without needing to present them with any form of contributions or gifts to alter their lifestyle. He wanted them to trust him and accept his ideas as a person and by not using force. His face expresses a powerful look, to show that he knows what he’s doing; yet there is also a hint of smugness and sneakiness in his eyes, which is perhaps why some of the Aborigines appear to not want to trust him at all.


The purpose of the text, ‘The National Picture’, 185, is a modernised version of ‘The Conciliation’, and shows what happened after George Augustus Robinson had succeeded in transferring the Aborigines out of Tasmania.

It shows the changes that occurred when the Aborigines were gone, what the “new owners” of the land, (white people), did to it and changed about it to make it more suited to their such different lifestyle.

The whole environment is completely changed and typical of today’s standards. The text is set out in exactly the same layout as The Conciliation, as in people in the same positions, and some of the original scenery and images which have been taken from the first text to make it relate and seem distinct on what The National Picture is trying to show.

By the use the same positions and layout of people, but giving them different expressions and tools of modern day time, the text, The National Picture creates a whole different and new meaning. Instead of showing Aborigines with their traditional hunting instruments like spears and hunting dogs, wearing animal skin for clothing and living a natural life, this image has been appropriated by changing all of that to things and objects used now in present time by white people. Now, where the Aborigines were in the land they were part of, it shows that white people now own the land and are carrying and using surveying instruments to map and change the area to suit it to their needs. Now that the Aborigines are gone, the land can be altered and explored and have done to it whatever the new ‘owners’ want.

Where once stood Aborigines with hunting animals now stands surveyors with eskies and radios.

Instead of where George Augustus Robinson stood all that time ago, surrounded by a group of Aborigines, now stands a representation of one of the last surviving and Trusting Aborigines ‘ Truganini’, amongst the White surveyors. Although the Aborigines had been taken out of their land for white people to take over, this one Aborigine is still willing to befriend and forgive.

Other items of the original, ‘ The Conciliation’, have been replaced and appropriated with modern day icons that obviously change the perspective of events, such as the corrugated iron fence and the Aboriginal ‘sports bag’ instead of where the grassy hill and sleeping dog once were. And the use of a kangaroo skin instead of the actual live kangaroo can indicate the erosion and destruction of Aboriginal culture and the once natural environment.

The Composer of this work has really changed the meaning completely of the issue of the original painting, and just by the subtlest changes. He keeps the whole layout of the image, which makes it relate so well, yet by changing just the facial expressions from unsure or trustworthy to just not really even caring for most of them, or the Aboriginal spears to surveying instruments, completely alters the whole perspective of what has happened.


These texts, when viewed together, The Conciliation first, then followed by The National Picture, creates an extremely strong aspect of change. There are so many differences that no matter who the audience or viewer of the text is, it is clear to see that the changes are real, that once, that is how it used to be, and then how it is now.

When the Aborigines of Tasmania were still living there, everything was traditional and unique. They did nothing to change the land as they felt that they belonged to it, not the other way around - (it belonging to them). When white people came to Australia, they felt they had to move the Aborigines to elsewhere because they wanted to do things with ‘their’ new land. That is why George Augustus Robinson was sent to remove the Aborigines of Tasmania, so they could use it as their own, and transform the land into what they wanted, which is shown in The National Picture.

Change is the central and biggest feature in The National Picture, because it doesn’t only reflect historical change, and what happened with the Aborigines when Robinson was sent, but the change also deals with and expresses cultural and technological change. The two artworks create an element that shows a gigantic leap in society from genocide to reconciliation, and from racism to multiculturalism.

In the original, The Conciliation, it” hypocritically celebrates the dispossession of indigenous land”, and the ‘new version’, The National Picture portrays a different agreement strategy that recognizes the need for a return of land to those whom it was taken from.

In The National Picture, the composer uses many visual images and changes which represent to the viewer that the original ‘agreement’ made with the Aborigines and George Robinson was dishonest, uncaring and disgraceful. It shows this with all the instruments which are used by the white people, that they have taken the Aborigines’ position on their land, both physically (in the text) and mentally, as Tasmania is now seen as another part of white Australia. After Robinson’s ‘agreement’, everything changed and became modernised and the Aboriginal history was lost and destroyed.

Ethnicity is an important feature of both of the texts, which is different cultures, the Aborigines and the white Australians. Both texts trace changes, which have occurred over time, that mark foundations in Australian national history and cultural identity. They both visually capture truthful situations such as generations of abuse, oppression and unfair treatment, which are now changing by progressing signs of reconciliation, cultural rebirth and celebration.

The two texts are both very similar, yet still have extreme differences. They both demonstrate and show clearly important issues of cultural, ethical and historical change. The Conciliation represents and celebrates an end to racial discrimination and bloodshed, while The National Picture expresses cultural awareness and acceptance. They are both related expressions of their times, indicating existing attitudes and perspectives, beliefs and political and social outlooks.


I have appropriated these texts to create a third visual text in the series, which is more suited to modern day times. It contains and portrays issues about recent Aboriginal standards in Australia and past issues that have taken place with reconciliation and agreements with Aboriginal people.

I have used the same layout and structure of the other two texts, with the similar positions and stance of the other people, but have yet again changed the expressions and body language to represent a different issue.

My appropriated visual text deals with the issue of land rights and when Gough Whitlam presented an Aboriginal man with a hand full of soil to represent handing their land back to them. But by that time, Aboriginal lifestyle had changed dramatically from the old traditions they had. Aborigines were becoming more influenced by white culture and became interested in alcohol and drugs. I have represented this by the street kids on the right side of the picture. There is also the issue of sniffing petrol in Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, which is another issue I included.

These teenagers on the right side of the text are still basically expressed in the same positions as the other two texts, but the expressions and objects like things they are holding, alcohol and cigarettes, presents a completely different outlook on the Aboriginal lifestyles after the strong influence of white society.

On the left side of the text, I have shown here how Aboriginal culture is slowly coming back and being accepted in modern civilization. People, such as tourists, like to see traditional Aboriginal performances and artworks coming back, but they usually don’t have original tribal meanings like they used to, as these are often sacred and cannot be viewed in public. In my appropriation, I have included a performance of an Aboriginal dance, but instead of being performed as it used to be with a story to it, it is simply only being shown as a busking item.

The people standing behind the Aboriginal man accepting the ‘land’ (soil), were once onlookers in the originals, and are now documenting the issue and reporting it for news. As if it’s only being done for publicity, and not as importantly for Aboriginal land rights.


The main evidential links between the stimulus booklet material, texts A and B, and the text, Looking For Alibrandi, definitely is shown as changing perspective, both for the texts themselves, such as the people shown in them, and to the viewer and audience.

The Audience mostly sees a change in perspective by the first impression of things, such as George Augustus Robinson conciliating with the Aborigines of Tasmania to move them from the land, and then the fact that the white people have just taken over their land and made it their own in ‘The National Picture’. This is a change in perspective as in, first the white people appeared friendly and were doing the transferring for a good cause, and in the second text, it appeared that they only were moving them for their own good. In Looking For Alibrandi, the change in perspective is more relevant not through the reader, but through the character of the text and the changes she goes through as a person in life, her family and friends.

Both texts include the issue of culture and respect in the subject of change, although they have opposite matters. One is changing to understand and appreciate culture and identity, Looking For Alibrandi, and the other is changing to disrespect land rights and not understand culture, The National Picture. But still in The National Picture, some Aboriginal symbols are included and still the subject of communication and respect from the Aboriginal Woman, represented as Truganini is shown, although the issue of The Conciliation, to some, she is portrayed as a traitor.

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