Sydney 2015


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ex Oceano: We are from the ocean, the ocean sustains us

Message of hope

I stand with my Roberts relations in Canberra on December 4th 2015, just before the preview of a major retrospective of art by our ancestor Tom Roberts. In my left pocket is a gift with a message for our new PM Malcolm Turnbull who will open the exhibition immediately after landing from the Paris Climate Summit. After an unexpected and delightful chat with Maria Myers, about the art we'd contributed from our collections, I meet Bruce Parncutt,just flown in from Melbourne with Maria's husband Allan Myers. Maria leaves with Allan and I show Bruce the gift. I ask if he knows the PM's Arts Advisor Michael Napthali,as I'd earlier been advised by the PA to the National Gallery of Australia's Director Gerard Vaughan,to give my gift to him to convey to the PM. Bruce immediately rings Michael on his mobile phone, telling me they're good friends. He says to stay with him and he'll guide me to Michael. Bruce and Michael are charming. My last memory is following Bruce's beckoning towards Michael at the end of Malcom's speech, quickly handing the gift to Bruce (or Michael?), and Michael shaking my hand and catching my eye before being swept away with the PM's entourage. I come away feeling confident that my gift has been acknowledged and will safely be conveyed to the PM's office.

Some weeks later Bruce Parncutt telephones to tell me that the gift is 'lost', and that Michael Napthali feels 'tender' about that. I tell Gerard Vaughan and agree to his suggestion of an ANG 'internal investigation', but when that turns up nothing I report the loss to the Federal Police and to ABC TV. ABC TV reports that the Coin donated to PM's office goes missing.

I was impressed by the care and attention given to me and to the story, by both the Federal Police and the ABC, and by Senator Penny Wong who raised the question in parliament,of an apology from the PM's office to the Roberts family. As I write (Friday Nov 16, 2019) there's still no word on that.

A greater loss for me than the coin, however, is the message of hope for our PM, for a more intelligent, creative nation. Alongside the coin was a small engraving of an Antarctic krill, a keystone creature in the marine food web, and the full message encompassed the question of climate change and sustainability.

The most significant loss however is the opportunity for people involved in the sorry loss to sit down and listen to each other directly, rather than involve police and media investigations.

So why keep banging on about this lost gift? People need to feel welcomed to meet and give message our leaders. I'd like all the people involved in what happened on the night of the exhibition opening to talk face to face. I'd like my message of hope to be given and accepted with an apology for the loss of the artefacts, and for us to determine together a course of action that will ensure that such a loss does not happen again.

Data Choreography

Phytoplankton dance 01
Animation: Lisa Roberts
Music: Matthew Dewey, excerpt from the symphony ex Oceano2013.
Courtesy of Lynchpin the Ocean project