Julie Gough

The Missing

Free Event
Fully accessible



Four silhouetted scenes inspired by the 1830s government propaganda placards known as ‘Governor Arthur’s Proclamation to the Aborigines’, and thousands of years of culture and Country. You’ll see them set in the land between Launceston and nipaluna / Hobart, along the Midland Highway.

Follow the map below to hear Julie speak about her work.

Audio map >

Julie writes:

In 1830 George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, followed the advice of surveyor George Frankland and issued illustrated timber placards to apparently communicate with the Aboriginal inhabitants of this island. While the artist is unknown, the intent was clearly governmental subterfuge. After almost thirty years of murderous colonisation of Lutruwita / Van Diemen’s Land / Tasmania by the shoot-first British, these panels were part of a campaign after the fact by the colonial leadership to cover up the rapidity and illegality of the near annihilation of the original landholders.

Described as ‘Governor Arthur’s Proclamation to the Aborigines’ these now infamous and priceless panels, of which only seven have surfaced in collections internationally, purportedly aimed to demonstrate, affixed to trees, that equal justice would be meted out to whoever killed an Aboriginal person, or a colonist.

These visual vignettes of encounter between Aboriginal people and white colonists present an unlikely goal of peaceful co-existence between Aboriginal and colonising families, framed after an agreement or treaty delineated as a handshake between the Governor and an Aboriginal leader. These follow from the bottom image of a colonist shooting an Aboriginal man, and being executed for his actions, above which is depicted an Aboriginal man spearing a colonist, and also being executed.

The Missing (reiterating the work’s initial manifestation as full-size plywood maquettes in 2011) extracts as silhouettes two pairs of figures, a colonist and an Aboriginal man, shooting or spearing the Other. The form of a lone woman holding a baby speaks both to the hundreds of Aboriginal children taken from their families, and the resultant servitude expected of them.

These government-commissioned illustrations perfectly represent everyday colonial cross-cultural interactions, which continue to haunt this island—shadows of the silenced past. Truth Telling to expose what happened across Lutruwita is now promised by the successor of that same colonial government with a particular focus on presenting the details of the displacement and death of Aboriginal people from their Country, and each other. Our horror. Towards Treaty and recompense.

A silhouette of an Aboriginal man walking with firestick aloft honours 50,000 years of sustainable cohabitation with Country. These silhouettes offer an opportunity for the suppressed to surface and for cross-cultural histories of the regions they inhabit to be actively excised and shared.

January 2022 onward


Midland Highway

Curated by Trudi Brinckman

Image: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, image detail.

Supported by Southern Midlands Council and Northern Midlands Council

COVID 19 Information

Indoor/outdoor: Outdoor
Masks required: Yes

This is an outdoor venue in a public space