Barre Warre, Parrwang Karrung (The Barwon – Magpie Camp)

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is delighted that renowned artist Dr Deanne Gilson accepted a commission to create an artwork for Barwon Park Mansion and the new book Barwon Park: People and Place.The artwork was first open to public viewing as part of the book launch in October 2023. Barre Warre, Parrwang Karrung (The Barwon - Magpie Camp) now hangs at Barwon Park Mansion and is an important new addition to the NTAV's Art & Heritage Collection.

Barre Warre, Parrwang Karrung (The Barwon – Magpie Camp), 2023, pink, yellow and white ceremonial ochre, 22 Carat gold leaf and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 150cm.


Deanne Gilson describes her painting journey and the inspiration behind Barre Warre, Parrwang Karrung (The Barwon – Magpie Camp)

A long time ago the Barwon was named Parwan or Magpie by my ancestors. A plentiful Country where camping, hunting and fishing took place and my people thrived and lived off the land for thousands of generations. This beautiful place is in my murrup (spirit), it resonates all that Country is and was, traversing time as if we never left, or were made to leave.

I am honoured to come back to this Country and bring with me the knowledge of the past and incorporate the story that is now. The Barwon Park Mansion, in all its glory, is situated on sacred Aboriginal land. My painting merges two stories, the black and white history.

A simple manna gum tree from our Creation Story, where our created Karringalabil created the first man and woman from bark from the tree and clay from the river, stands strong, holding its ground, while my people camp in front of the mansion. By me painting them, I am putting their stories back into the picture and honouring their lives and all they fought for. The birds from my Creation Story, go about their daily business, often called to by my people, especially Waa the Crow, said to be our ancestors watching over us.

Somehow, time has stopped for the mansion and the people that once lived here are all gone and yet the spirit of this land still holds the stories. Because of my ancestors today, I am still here and able to paint their story and mine, all one part of this history that incorporates the Austin legacy and the humble magpie. It is said that he lifted the sky from darkness to light, a metaphor for acceptance and change in my own story now, the light has been shone on a new beginning for the Barwon.

Gobata, Nyatne, take care and thank you for listening to my Wadawurrung story, with thanks, Dr Deanne Gilson.


About Deanne Gilson

Dr Deanne Gilson is a proud Wadawurrung woman living on her ancestral Country of Ballarat in Victoria. Gilson’s art practice is made up of a multidisciplinary approach, consisting of painting, ceramics, fabric design, and adornment making. Sourcing ochres found on her daily walks and charcoal from her mum’s fire, Gilson creates her paintings in a slow fashion, building up layers of ochre one at a time.

Her artwork draws upon intangible knowledge that is connected to the spirit of her ancestors and oral storytelling, like her Creation Story. The trees and birds often present in her paintings are all from the Creation Story. Coining the phrase, her ‘cultural trees of knowledge’, each different tree species recounts different parts of her Creation Story. Having reclaimed traditional marks and incorporated new contemporary symbols within her work, they highlight the ongoing lived experience of her family and their connection to the past, present and future stories.

She loves painting the many plants of the Australian bush, particularly bush foods and medicine or healing plants. She often integrates them with cultural artefacts like woven baskets and kitsch Aboriginal objects of the early 1950s ceramics studios of Australia, delineating and extrapolating on the ways in which her identity has been altered through the interruption of the settlers that occupied and took over her Country.

Each painting functions as evidence in the reclamation of her culture, identity, and deep connections to Country (Dja) that have never been broken, only sleeping. Gilson believes this to be a critical time in history to be a proud First Peoples woman, mother, grandmother and senior Wadawurrung knowledge holder.

The NTAV acknowledges the support of past board member, Dr Jacqueline Healy, for her work in securing Deanne Gilson for this important commission.


View the artwork

Barre Warre, Parrwang Karrung (The Barwon – Magpie Camp) is on display at Barwon Park Mansion and is reproduced in Barwon Park: People and Place (2023)

Barwon Park Mansion is open Wednesday and Sunday (September – May), and on the last Sunday of Each Month (June to August). See opening times and plan your visit here.


The article was written by  Dr Annette Shiell, Executive Manager, Collections & Cultural Projects, and was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 Edition of the NTAV Magazine.

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