An article in The Age about the new Directory of the Queensland National Art Gallery, Tony Ellwood. The article talks about Ellwood’s early years spent in Kununurra, at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts.

Ellwood, who grew up in country Victoria, had his first directorial outing, aged 22, in the remote Western Australian town of Kununurra, as head of Waringarri Aboriginal Arts.

One of the centre’s stars was the late Rover Thomas, who nicknamed Ellwood “li’l boss” and grew so fond of him that he honoured the director with a skin name ” a distinction rarely given to a white man. Ellwood has mixed feelings about that time ” it pains him to remember the poverty, the isolation and the pressure on artists such as Thomas, particularly in light of the huge prices now being paid for Aboriginal art at auction.

“The $500,000 and $700,000 prices were not being realised then. I had to hand Rover cheques for $50,000 and have him come to me the next morning hungry because he had bought a Toyota for his family,” he says.

“I haven’t been back to Kununurra, deliberately ¦ it was hard to cope with what I saw those artists go through.”