The Land is your mother
Clive "Bidja" Atkinson reminisces about his childhood, firstly in the Goulburn River region and then later in Echuca.
He speaks of his love for the land, the Murray River, and of his respect for the Yort Yorta culture that has been passed on to him by his family. Clive became the first Koorie in Victoria to obtain a qualification in graphic design. But no matter where his travels will take him, Clive will always return to the land of his mother.
The land is your mother. You are born to the land and go back to the land. I’ve always considered Echuca my home. The word Echuca means ‘the meeting of the waters’ in the native tough of my people, the Yorta Yorta tribe. The Murray River has a deep connection to my heart, I belong to it. No matter how far I’ve travelled over the world, I will always belong to this country an’ my people. I grew up on the Mooroopna flats on the banks of the Goulburn River near Shepparton. When the river would flood we would be forced to relocate to a dry area near the local tip. At that time the indigenous communities were not allowed to settle in the main part of the town. Conditions were appalling with no sewerage system or running water. Thankfully my father got a job in Echuca and moved the family from the flats in 1946. My parents wanted us kids to have an education an’ gain the opportunities that they never themselves ever had. I discovered my passion for art while at Primary School. My mother would take my drawings, frame them and enter them into local art exhibitions where I would regularly win First Prize over local adult artists. A little later on down the track I became the first Koori in Victoria the have a qualification in Graphic Design. I then travelled overseas and undertook my real apprenticeship in becoming a capable and confident designer. By the time I returned to Australia I could practically walk into any studio and fulfil a creative brief. After being a ‘gun for hire’ an’ Art Director in Melbourne for 8 years, I finally decided to set up my own company Advertite in 1980. Advertite grew very quickly from a two man operation to a large company that employed 24 people. We supplied design for all the major advertising agencies within Melbourne. But sometimes success has a price and after my first marriage broke down I sold my share of the business and moved back to Echuca. Being drawn once again to the river, I bought a 150 acre property near the Goulburn and Murray River. It was a funny feeling knowing I was purchasing the land that my people, the Yorta Yorta, traditionally already owned, but with the purchase of “Mirrimbeena” I found a serenity that had long been missing from my life. A sacred place for me to build a home and a family, a place that gives me creative freedom and endless inspiration. I will always come back home. I love the smell of the trees, the dust and the flies.