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Crafting First Nations culture in Cherbourg


Pottery sessions at the Cherbourg Historical, Cultural and Community Precinct, trading as the Ration Shed Museum, developed and promoted the skills of local First Nations potters and artists through a series of training and mentoring workshops.  

The pottery sessions were focused on maintaining a strong culture where knowledge and practice is passed on by recognised and respected Elders and peers.  

Hand-building with clay workshops engaged the community in arts practice, skills development and capacity building. 

The workshop activities incorporated the full production process, from creation to sales, to improve economic outcomes for workshop participants and the artists of the Ration Shed Museum.

The Ration Shed Museum was founded in 2006 by a group of Elders in the Cherbourg community.  

The Museum, which is a not-for-profit association incorporated in Queensland, includes the original buildings, old photographs, recorded oral histories, integrated into contemporary creative cultural expression and practices which provided an important cultural backdrop for the pottery sessions.  

A core ambition of the Ration Shed Museum has been to revitalize the distinctive Barambah/Cherbourg pottery into an economic strength, developing production and distribution into a wholesale and retail business and to build on its tourism retail strategy. 

These pottery workshops helped to deliver on these priorities.

The Ration Shed Museum is committed to nurturing existing partnerships and to access future opportunities with local potters, artists, community groups and schools in the area. 

By promoting culture through artistic expression, the Ration Shed Museum encourages more Indigenous youth to train as potters and artists, highlighting the economic benefits that can be gained both by individuals and the community


When and where

From 5 October 2020 to 28 May 2021 at the Pottery House in the Ration Shed Museum, Cherbourg.  

First Nations artist with two pieces of pottery


Key stats

  • The project was attended by 
    • 70 Aboriginal peoples 
    • 15 Torres Strait Islander peoples 
    • 100 regional Queenslanders in total 
    • 10 people with a disability 
  • Sale of pottery from the project was $19,770 


Arts Queensland investment 

$17,000 through the Indigenous Regional Arts Development Fund (IRADF) 2019-2020.

IRADF, part of the Backing Indigenous Arts Initiative, is a partnership between the Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland, the Torres Strait Regional Authority, Aboriginal Councils and host organisations throughout Queensland with an aim to maintain culture and engage local communities in arts practice. 



Professional Development

  • Two very experienced potters ran most of the workshops – 
    • Fay Stumm is a master potter who teaches wheel techniques and glazing and firing skills.
    • Maureen Addenbrooke led a series of hand building workshops which included using hand building methods, glazes and techniques. 
  • Workshops extended the skills of artists who learned about clay and its properties, basic throwing of pots to bisque work, hand-building and clay moulding, glazing, learning about the kiln, firing and marketing. 
  • Artists also had the opportunity to apply their artistic talents to produce creative and unique items which included sculptures and jewellery. 
  • Experienced participants worked on ways to combine hand building to incorporate into their thrown bowls. Newcomers were able to participate in clay workshop without having any experience.


Elevating First Nations arts 

  • Promote and develop the skills of the local Cherbourg Indigenous potters and artists through formal and informal training and mentoring.
  • Skills included throwing, clay work, decorating, glazing, loading the kiln and learning firing methods. 
  • Completing the production process involved pricing finished works and marketing them.
  • The workshops assisted local artists and potters to produce high quality saleable items.
  • This has allowed each participant to work on their own style and observe what designs and forms customers are attracted to.
  • The production and sale of the pottery has improved economic outcomes for participants of the workshop and the artists of the Ration Shed Museum.


Activate Queensland’s places and spaces 

  • The Pottery House has provided the group with a well-equipped space in which to work and create authentic First Nations art. 


Driving social change and strengthen communities

  • Activated existing cultural infrastructure in a unique way
  • The equipment, materials and support from Trainers has led to the development of high-quality products that support and promote the Barambah Pottery brand.
  • A “Come & Try Day” Workshop was conducted for new and young participants with good outcomes, especially when the young people received their decorated fired bowls. 


Share our stories and celebrate our storytellers.

  • The core group of artists and potters continue to take advantage of the training on offer, as well as to encouragement young artists by being available to assist with sessions targeting new and young participants.


Learnings and reflections

Delivering the project through impacts of COVID 

  • COVID lockdowns and closures considerably interrupted and restricted project activities.  
  • The Ration Shed Museum worked to put in protocols to protect the health and well-being of participants in a high-risk community and effected how many people could engage in the training and workshops. 

Community Collaboration

  • The workshops were designed for a variety of skill sets and participants, ranging from regular core Ration Shed Museum artists to youth and beginners. 
  • More experienced artists were able to mentor the younger artists and beginners. 


Feedback and comments

Aunty Sandra Morgan, Committee Member of Cherbourg Ration Shed Museum said the project would “strengthen the operational management of the Ration Shed Museum and allow us to broaden our community initiatives, building on what we have already created”.

“The Ration Shed Museum is an integral part of the Cherbourg community, providing spaces for learning, artistic practice, healing and reconciliation,” Aunty Sandra Morgan said.

What next

Funding of $210,000 will be provided over two financial years from 2021-22 and 2022-23 towards the Ration Shed Museum as part of Arts Queensland’s investment in local Indigenous Arts Centres (IAC), to strengthen the IAC network build artist and arts worker skills and increase the supply of quality First Nations artwork.

Arts Queensland is working closely with the Cherbourg Historical Precinct Group Incorporated as part of a new approach to realise locally-led investment priorities that will make a positive and long term impact.

The IAC funding will grow the reputation of the Ration Shed Museum as a cultural tourism destination. 


Find out more

Ration Shed Museum