Posted by: Julie Duell | March 18, 2008


By now you may have picked up that I have a deep love for Australia’s unique and wonderful wildlife and have enjoyed painting many versions of it…..

those-marvelous-roos-450w.jpg   “BIG REDS”

kookaburra-pastels-420w.jpg  KOOKABURRA



In this post however, I invite you to contemplate with me, the human component of this great island continent.

I think you will agree that Australia has a rich heritage  of both black and white cultures as its basis.     Now, as the population now moves more and more into  a broader multi-cultural society, I feel it is most important that we preserve and learn from this history, healing the rifts that divide us and moving forward together.

Over my short lifetime in the scheme of things, I’ve pondered the question of our sense of belonging – our attitude to the planet we call home – and ways different cultures perceive this. 

All too often there has been an attitude that the earth and its riches are there to plunder – unfortunately often with excessive greed and only the short term dollar in mind. Whether intended or not, this is a huge blot on the history of the world’s human  activities that we now realise must be urgently addressed.

At last, it is clear that this short-sightedness has lacked responsibility in our role as caretakers of the planet.  As climate change affects the earth and species become extinct at an alarming rate, urgent action is needed by us all, right down to the lights we switch off or the shopping bags we use. There is a huge, growing worldwide awakening and wonderful inventors everywhere are looking to technology to solve its own problems.  After all, we reap what we sow.

The traditional indigenous knowledge (Australian aboriginal, American Indian & others) has been that “we belong to the earth” rather than “the earth belongs to us” and that we have the great honour and responsibility of being its caretakers.  I feel we have so much to learn from these cultures as we move towards realisation of this fundamental truth.

These were my thoughts as I tried to portray these two opposing viewpoints in the painting below. I donated it by request to the Aboriginal Lands Board in Darwin.  The painting indicates the dividing of the land into allotments with each division marked with a Deposited Plan number claiming ‘ownership’, thus attaching a price to that which nature has given freely.  In the meantime, the aborigines in the painting look on to the expanse of landscape with different eyes – seeing themselves as belonging to not only the land, but the stars …the universe! 


I thought about this sense of ‘belonging to the earth’ deeply and then painted another, attempting to tune in to the deep-rooted, beautiful and simple Aboriginal approach. Maybe my drop of indigenous Shoshone American Indian blood helped me to see this way. Its just a ‘gut feeling’ painting………….

“Dreamscape I”


31/5/08 Stop press!!  RECONCILIATION WEEK: The above painting was  awarded FIRST PRIZE in the 2008 Aboriginal Artists Art Exhibition & Competition, taking out the Non-indigenous Award, so I feel deeply honoured. This Exhibition is stunning and will be on display at the Gosford City Arts Centre until July 13th…then annually. 


The major Tony Donovan Reconciliation Award went to Kerri Anne Patterson for her amazing painting “It’s all our story” which can be seen presenting a wonderful right-hand backdrop for the beautiful Torres Strait Islander dancers in this photo below…


It was wonderful to see so many young people supporting this Exhibition as part of RECONCILIATION WEEK 2008.  The Gallery resounded with rejoicing as the wonderful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dancers performed to the vibrant rhythms of drums and clapping sticks.   Let us recognise this as a further step towards deep and sincere healing and reconciliation.


I, like so many others, have felt for the reconciliation issue for many years.  I am a 6th generation Australian descended from a convict from one of the first “boat people” to arrive at Sydney Cove in 1788 on the First Fleet and I deeply feel for the losses suffered by the Aboriginal people as a result of the white invasion.  The painting hereunder was entitled “Lost Lessons” painted in the 1980s..


and here is “Lost Lessons II”

I later, by request, combined these 2 paintings into 1 – so here is “Dreamscape II” which is also on display in the RECONCILIATION WEEK 2008 ABORIGINAL ARTISTS ART EXHIBITION & COMPETITION at Gosford City Arts Centre until 13th July 2008. 


Both Tony and I attended a recent “Sorry” day gathering in Gosford along with hundreds of others.  We wept in the rain as the heavens opened up as though Nature were crying with us while Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his ‘Sorry’ speech.  Those attending were able to express their thoughts on pages which will be bound into a book.


This walk was held on the Central Coast of NSW from MacMasters Beach to Terrigal, culminating in a concert at Terrigal Haven.    The slideshow gives an overview of some of the events, including excellent aerial photos of the 2007 mandala on Terrigal Skillion and glimpses of the 2008 mandala created jointly by a Chinese and an Australian Aboriginal artist.    Combining symbology from both Tibetan and Australian Aboriginal cultures, this most recent mandala represents the elements of fire and water, connected by an umbilical chord.

Terrigal Skillion, above, is a natural steep rock formation at Terrigal Haven and will no doubt remain the spectacular culminating venue of annual celebrations of the “5 LANDS WALK” in future.

We found it extremely moving to walk up the steep Skillion past this impressive land art to the topmost peak where humpback whales could be seen offshore…then descending again to the Haven where an impressive concert and ceremony took place, including the children of the five lands (MacMasters Beach, Copacabana, South Avoca, North Avoca and Terrigal) singing “FROM LITTLE THINGS BIG THINGS GROW” – the song now popularised by the Getup group.  For Tony and I, the quote of the day was “Where there is love, there is no room for anything else”.   It would seem that there is at last an awakening to the fact that we all belong to one planet – a precious jewel in the universe.


What follows now in this post is along the lines of treasuring Australia’s bush/white pioneer heritage with some paintings I’ve done over the years in this genre.

I will begin with my portrait of James David Hill, affectionately known as ‘Jimmy the Whip’, painted in 1992.  The picture shows Jim and his father with the portrait, which is very appropriate as Jim is a 3rd generation whipmaker to the country people of Australia.  He also plaited the whips for the movies “The Man from Snowy River” and “Indiana Jones” and attended country agricultural shows for many years demonstrating his skills.


This lifesize portrait took 3 months to complete and along with Jim, who posed at our fireplace in full regalia, I included a lamp and clock from my own childhood growing up without electricity.  I still have the 7 day windup clock chiming away as I type.

The images of Hill End include the childhood home of my grandmother, Charlotte Pullen, who was born in that area in 1863, daughter of William Toft and Charlotte Pullen who were very active there for some years before moving to the Clarence River and becoming early pioneers of Woolgoolga.   These images are based on gold mining, sheep & cattle musters, farm & country life. the era of the steam train & so on……………

The first image is of my grandmother as a little girl (centre) with her family outside their home next to the old Post Office and Great Western Store in the gold mining town of Hill End – c.1972

Now my painting of the Hill End Post Office and Store before it was restored.

This next painting is from a photograph I took at Little Hartley, NSW and I imagined and invented the people component, who may have once inhabited this deserted beautiful old building.

“News from Home” depicts a drover receiving a letter from his wife back home and his imaging of her as he reads.

A visit to Carcoar NSW resulted in my painting the old inn there…

Thinking about my great-grandparents’ involvement in the Australian gold rush back in the 1870s, I painted “Gold Fever” using rivers of gold paint running through the cracks in the rocks which unite the composition.  Gifted to the Central Coast Lapidary Club 2010.

As a child, I spent a very cold night on Warrimoo station in the Blue Mountains of NSW and was impressed by the sight of the fireman of a steam train, stripped to the waist, stoking the engine for it’s climb further up the mountain.  Many years later I painted this from memory…”ERA OF THE STEAM LOCOMOTIVE”

“BUSH HOSPITALITY”  – boiling the billy for a cuppa!

“GOLD PROSPECTORS” is a painting depicting the cradle rocker method of  prospecting.


“ISOLATED OUTBACK LIFE” depicts some of the self-sufficient lifestyle of the outback.

“NEARLY HOME, NUNDLE, NSW”  – I painted this from a photograph taken through our car windscreen back in the 1980s. What a lovely scene!

“THE LUCKY COUNTRY” – where one can pan the creeks for gold.

“The Stockman’s Life”

Further Australiana paintings by Julie may be seen on the Post BUSH POEMS ILLUSTRATED and includes “Waltzing Matilda” and others.

Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post if you wish to share your thoughts…………..

Sincerely,  Julie    

FOOTNOTE:    Julie Duell (nee Henderson) was born in Sydney on 9/7/1941. Her family can be traced back to a convict, James Freeman, who arrived on the “Alexander”, part of the First Fleet to arrive in Sydney Cove in 1788.  On her mother’s side, there is a link back to indigenous American Shoshone Indian heritage as well as English.  Both sides of her family were very much involved in the gold rush era, both at Hill End NSW and the Palmer River goldfields near Cooktown, Queensland.


  1. Thankyou Aryana for your kind comment. I wish you well with your studies and am glad to make contact with you. Julie

  2. hello Julie, i have jsut come across this web page whilst doing a research assinment on Belonging for english.
    your artworks are truelly magnificent and beautiful. i love them. their unique point of views and the way you have designed them, not to mention your wonerful artistic techniques!

    they are stunning. congradulations on creating such master peices!
    thankyou for posting them, they are an inspirtation.

    kindest regards, Aryana

  3. Dear Julie
    I am compiling some interactive flipcharts for English teachers in Illawarra and South East Region on the BELONGING Area of Study for HSC.
    There are 2 of your paintings that I am seeking your permission to use as images in the flipcharts. One of them is ‘Dreamscape 1’ and the other is the one you gave to the Aboriginal Lands Board in Darwin. They are wonderful images for exploring with students an indigenous perspective on ‘belonging’.
    I would also like to make a reference or link to your commentary via blog on the two paintings.
    Is it possible to have your permission to use them in the way described above for educational purposes ?

  4. Hey Julie,
    I just found this page whilst doing a research assignment on australian art for school.
    This is amazing.
    I’ve always loved history and of course art and just looking at your artworks on this site really evoke heart felt sincerity and compassion.
    You’ve done a fabulous job with ‘Dreamscape I’ and ‘Lost Lessons II’.



    • Thanks Beck – Glad we connected. Good luck with your assigment/s. I am wondering what year you are in at school. Best wishes, Julie

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