Robert Joseph Kickett

Spinifex Hill Studios

‘I was born in Perth at Subiaco Memorial hospital on October 2, 1956. We used to stay in Allawah Grove Native Settlement in South Guildford, used to be the old army barracks during the war time. It’s connected to the Perth Airport, and was a stone’s throw from the South Guildford Cemetery. There was a lot of families living there through the sixties.

I started learning how to paint from watching my mother do paper bark paintings at Allawah Grove. I was a salesperson for paperbark paintings at the age of six or seven! That’s how I learned to do the scenery. We stayed at Allawah Grove until 1967 when it closed down. All the families that didn’t get a house in the wider community had to move elsewhere. My family went to Beverley Reserve, along with other families already living there. In each country town there was a reserve for the Noongar community. From Beverley my family moved to state housing in Coolbellup. At Coolbellup I went to Hamilton Hill Senior High School. I was pretty good at doing artwork by then. At Coolbellup all the Noongar women had formed a group, headed by Mrs Sonsee from the United Church of Christ. I went to the church and did some art, and the women’s group set up a scholarship for me to go to Claremont Art School. Unfortunately, my family had to move from Coolbellup right when I was getting really interested in art. The state housing kicked us out of Coolbellup then, and we had to move into tents at Widgee Road Camping Ground in Beechboro.

From there we formed a group called Fringe Dwellers. We protested for Aboriginal land rights and better housing conditions. That was in the late 1970s. We got a lot of support from all the different organisations – mainly different church groups. We went across to see Mr Viner – he was the Aboriginal Affairs Minister then. We ended up getting some land and that’s how Lockridge Camp and Cullacabardee and Nangarra communities came to be. We ended up building houses there. They’re almost all of them closed down now. Now I’m in Hedland it feels good to be painting again. I started with the men’s group, but now I’ve been walking over here by myself. Nothing wrong with a bit of walking!’

Language group: Noongar