FLORENCE Outback Tours; the name came about when art conservationist Catherine Millikan fell in love with the story of an aboriginal art museum three hundred kilometres from Alice Springs.
Catherine had worked at the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin, had been senior conservator of objects at the National Gallery of Victoria, worked in conservation with a special program in Cambodia for the National Gallery of Australia, helping to develop programs to assist with the rehabilitation of the Cambodia Museums collection.
But it was back home in Australia that Catherine became involved with the Yuendumu Men’s Museum.
Many years ago, a group of senior Warlpiri men at Yuendumu built the community’s museum in local stone and decorated it with aboriginal murals.
This happened in 1971. The museum was erected to house ochre cave paintings and sacred objects but over the years the building had deteriorated.
When Catherine Millikan arrived on the scene the roof was leaking and the weather and local cattle had caused a great deal of damage and disrepair.
Catherine set about restoring the building and its murals. Senior law men from the aboriginal community kept an eye on the work and when complete gave Catherine permission to open the museum to all visitors.
Initially, Catherine invited some friends from Melbourne to make the trip with her and she was surprised by the interest and excitement of those who came along, and Florence Outback Tours was born.
The tours leave from Alice Springs airport where Catherine meets her guests, but it’s open to only seven people at a time. They can drive or fly into the site and accommodation is at a lodge near the site.
As well as touring the museum, they meet local artists and tour local sites of interest. Catherine says the landscape is incredible with the colours so bright just like an Albert Namatjira painting.
The tour runs for five nights, but can be a day shorter if you fly in. Catherine says the landscape from the air is breathtaking with the McDonald Ranges, salt lakes, eagles and dingoes below and the stunning beauty of the outback stretching out before you.
If you would like to contact Catherine you can do so on 0418 369 826 or email [email protected]
Until next time,