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of the store cupboard and are in 'pristine
condition,' according to Nairn.
The third is collectibility. Staff at Bonga
Binga Small Good School unearthed a
'treasure trove' of unfired dinosaur figures
made by the Year 3s in 1951 'languishing'
in a store cupboard when they likewise
undertook a clean-out last month in prepa-
ration for renovations. Principal Fergus
McNikkle-Nakkle says he is keen to sell
and the school will do 'everything in our
power' to offload the art, but has received
zero bids so far on eBay.
And the fourth? Well, as devoted fans
of The Collectors -- McNikkle-Nakkle
included -- will know, Dickson College is
living the trash-and-treasure dream, where
some trash you weren't aware had any value
turns out to be treasure. In the case of the
12 bark paintings, though, Dickson College
wasn't even aware of the paintings.
A staple segment in The Collectors shows
ordinary folk eager to find out whether stuff
like a collection of unfired dinosaur figures
made by Year 3 students in 1951 is worth
anything. It's not, and there are still zero
bids on eBay.
The most amazing thing, according to
Na i r n's ABC News report, is that Dickson
College principal Beth Mitchell actually did
the clean-out herself -- and ABC Ne ws has
the footage to prove it.
Is it worth checking on the whereabouts
of our school principals?
Is it likely our principals will emerge
from a store cupboard with long-lost stuff
that's been 'languishing' in there?
And if by the remotest chance it turns
out there is a 'treasure trove' 'languishing'
in a store cupboard in your school, be pre-
pared to be told it's not for sale. T
This month's Last Word was writte n by
Steve Holden, Editor of Te acher , and
last year's highly commended winner
in the Best Columnist category of the
Melbourne Press Club Quill Awards for
the Last Word.
The principal of Dickson College in Can-
berra found a 'treasure trove' of 'extremely
valuable,' indeed 'priceless,' Aboriginal
bark paintings 'la nguishing' in a store cup-
board when they undertook a clean-out last
month in preparation for renovations.
Dickson College has had the paintings
valued -- how much they're worth is a secret
-- but principal Beth Mitchell says the school
is not selling and will do 'everything in our
power' to keep the art. 'To me it's priceless,'
Mitchell told Jessica Nairn, who reported
the story for ABC News in the Australian
Capital Territory. 'This collection's not for
sale,' Mitchell said. 'This collection is for
The school was a pioneer in offering
Aboriginal Studies in the 1970s and bought
the 12 paintings, some by well-known
Indigenous artists from Arnhem Land in
the Northern Territory, in the '70s or '80s
for use in Aboriginal Studies classes.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
art specialist and Adjunct Reader in Art
History at Australian National University
Wally Caruana described the collection as
a significant learning resource. 'It's valu-
able as a record of things that were hap-
pening 20 to 30 years ago in central and
western Arnhem Land, which is where all
the paintings come from,' he told ABC
News. 'You've got to hand it to the college
that they had a lot of foresight, especially
in those days, to actually take students up
to Arnhem Land.'
Devoted fans of the ABC's The Collec-
tors will know that this is a story all about
four things. The first is provenance, and the
Dickson College paintings have bucketloads
of this. Dr Michael Pickering, Director of
the National Museum of Australia's Abo-
riginal and Torres Strait Islander Program,
has identified the paintings as genuine.
As well, as Mitchell explained, 'Dickson
College in the '70s and '80s was the only
college that had Aboriginal Studies as a
major. They travelled up there (to Arnhem
Land) and recognised the significance of
these paintings, and bought paintings at a
time when nobody else was doing this.'
The second is condition, and the Dickson
College paintings have this in bucketloads,
too. The 12 bark paintings have been well
preserved in the dark and dry conditions
The last word
WHEN ONE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL FINDS VALUABLE ABORIGINAL PAINTINGS
IN A STORE CUPBOARD, YOU CAN EXPECT ANY AMOUNT OF RUMMAGING
THROUGH THE REST OF THE NATION'S SCHOOLS, SAYS STEVE HOLDEN.
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