Rusty Peters


Birth Date: 31/12/1934
Language: Gija, Kimberley Kriol
Skin: Juwurru
Birth Place: Barlinyin - Springvale Station
Region: The Kimberley



Rusty Peters is a senior Gija man of Juwurru skin. His bush name Dirrji refers to dingo pups looking out of a hole at the sunrise. He was born under a Warlagarri or Supplejack tree on Springvale Station south west of Turkey Creek the same day as his jimarri or age mate Charlie McAdam. His spirit came from a crocodile his father had killed when his mother became pregnant. He grew up on Springvale learning traditional law and working as a stockman and at other things such as welding fences and stock yards. When his father was killed in a tragic riding accident at Roses Yard, the family moved to Mabel Downs where he became renowned as a horse breaker. He lived for sometime at Nine Mile reserve at Wyndham after the introduction of award wages forced people off stations but then moved to Turkey Creek where with other senior Gija artists such as Hector Jandany and George Mung-Mung he helped start the school. As part of the Gija cultural program, he took groups of boys out bush, showed them how to make spears and hunt and to make a camp without matches or blankets in the traditional way. He also worked in the Gija language maintenance program. In 1989 he moved to Kununurra where he was employed at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts as an assistant. He was a long time friend of Rover Thomas, caring for him on most of the trips he made in the later part of his life. He made prints and did some painting while working for Waringarri Arts. He moved to Crocodile Hole when Freddy Timms based the Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts group there in 1997 and began to paint on large canvases. His detailed knowledge of the land and stories from Springvale and neighboring Moolabulla stations is reflected in distinctive paintings in traditional red and yellow ochers and black charcoal. While recognizably part of the 'Turkey Creek' style the intricate curves mapping the country and the dark caves and rivers in the pictures are particular to Peters' work. In early 2000 he collaborated with Peter Adsett, a white artist from the Northern Territory University. Each artist completed seven canvases taking turns to paint in response to each other. These paintings were shown at a joint exhibition "Two Laws, One Big Spirit" at 24Hour Art, Darwin in September 2000. The Neminuwarlin dance group performed at the exhibition's closing ceremony. This acclaimed exhibition toured Australia during 2002-2004. Peters' painting Chinaman's Garden Massacre which tells the story of yet another tragic piece of East Kimberley history, was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in March 2001. This painting together with another work by Peters, Blackfella Murdered in Australia, were included in the Blood on the Spinifex exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne between December 2002 and March 2003. His eight panel painting ‘Waterbrain’ was acquired by the Art Gallery of NSW in February 2002 and featured in their True Stories: Art of the East Kimberley in early 2003. Rusty Peters has returned to paint with Warmun Art Center in 2010 after the closure of Jirrawun Art. Biography written by Frances Kofod. 


Barlinyin - Springvale country
Billimack Spring
Gija Law
Gilbun - Mabel Downs
Massacre sites - Chinaman's Garden
Origins of manthe


2003 Watson, K, True stories: Art of the East Kimberley, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003
2003 Taylor, R, ‘Blood on the spinifex’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 159, 2003, pp. 28-31.
2004 Rothwell, N. ‘Under the Skin’ The Weekend Australian Review, 12-13 June 2004
2002 Oliver, T, M Langton & F Kofod, Blood on the Spinifex, University of Melbourne, 2002
2002 Oliver, T, Rhapsodies in country, GrantPirrie, Sydney, 2002
2001 Lee, M. A. article in Art and Artists in Australia March 2001
1999 Rusty Peters Kimberley Stories, solo exhibition catalogue, William Mora Galleries 1999
1995 McAdam, Charlie, Boundary Lines, McPhee Gribble, Ringwood, Victoria, 1995
2003 Kofod, F, ‘Blood on the spinifex’, The World of Antiques and Art, February 2003, p. 193
2000 Kofod, F. ‘The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, 2000 p 671


Art Gallery of N.S.W
Banks Collection, USA
National Gallery of Australia, A.C.T
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, WA