Hunting, fishing and camping is a way of life for me and my family and all the Barkindji people. Growing up I was always on the Murray and Darling Rivers fishing and camping. My favourite fishing spot was where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet in Wentworth. Our great serpent (Ngatji) created our waterways and always looks over them.
My name is Trevor Mitchell, I am Barkindji. My homeland covers a broad area of country from Mildura in the north west of Victoria to Burke in northern New South Wales. My people (Barkindji mob) are river people who have traditionally lived and hunted fish, turtles, yabbies’ and clams along the Baarka (Darling River) for many thousands of years. We are the direct descendants of Mungo Man and Mungo Woman who lived in the region some forty thousand years ago.
We are better known in today’s society as Darling River people. Like many Aboriginal men of my generation and generation’s before me we have been subjected to European influence. Witnessing the destruction of our culture and being forced to live by foreign laws has caused mayhem amongst my people. Similar to many men and women from my community I too find myself imprisoned for crimes linked to the trauma and oppression directed at us by European invaders. I was raised in an underprivileged community and I continue to struggle with how my people can adapt to this new world of white justice. In my culture, family and community is everything, stronger than any other relationship. Being separated from my family for the last five years of my imprisonment has been extremely difficult for me.
Since my incarceration I have discovered ways of managing my existence by expressing my culture through artistic practice. My ability to communicate feelings of persecution and loss of culture through painting has been very rewarding and provided me with a connection to my Indigenous history. Initially it was a respected Elder ‘uncle’ who introduced me to painting and encouraged me to paint my dreaming stories, which set me on a path of self-discovery. Through my paintings I feel more connected to my people and the Baarka River country in both a contemporary sense and with my ancestors. My painting allows me to tell the stories and the folklores passed down through the generations into present day society.
My family live in Wentworth near the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers and where New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia come together.