Troubled traces: painting and displaying intercultural traumas of Aboriginality

Heather Kamarra Shearer


Behind the pointillism of dot paintings or ‘naïve’ techniques, Aboriginal artists stridently critique histories of injustice, incarceration, racism, colonialism and dispossession. This personal testimony from Heather Kamarra Shearer, one of the ‘stolen generation’ of Aboriginal Australians, reflects on her life story and her present vocation in the field of legal rights and as an artist.


Aboriginal Australians, Aranda people, Australia, National Stolen Generations Alliance, art, reparation, healing, intercultural, trauma

Full text: Shearer_p.199-209 (PDF, 2,674 KB)


Biographical note

At the time of writing, Heather Kamarra Shearer served as an Aboriginal Justice Officer for the South Australian Courts Authority. She has previously held positions of Field Officer for Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and Senior Caseworker of the Central Australian Stolen Generations and Families Aboriginal Corporation. As an Aboriginal artist she has presented work at seventeen exhibitions, and was employed as the Indigenous Arts Officer with Arts South Australia, and was Arts Coordinator for Jukurrpa Artists, as has participated in numerous community projects. Heather was recently nominated for a National DEADLY award in 2012, other awards include: NAIDOC Artist of the Year for Alice Springs (1992); Emerging Artists Award (SA 1993) and the Artist in Residency program in Limoges/Paris (The Jam Factory 1997). Heather’s involvement in a range of committees include: the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust Foundation (2001); National Sorry Day Committee (1998 – 2001) and Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute (1997). She has appeared as a witness in the SA Parliamentary Committee for the SA Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal Bill and contributed to the Senate Inquiry Report into Past Forced Adoption (2012) in her position as Truth Portfolio Convenor of the National Stolen Generations Alliance. Between 2012 and 2014 Heather worked as the National Project Officer with the National Stolen Generations Alliance. Heather’s homeland is Ntaria (Hermannsburg).

An earlier version of this material was presented on the occasion of the project conference ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (20 -22 November 2012, Museum of Ethnology/Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna). To view the film footage on the Open Arts Archive,, follow this link: