The Art of Healing (2005)

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In the middle of the Central Australian Outback stands a church that is like no other in the world.

The Santa Teresa church, in Ltyentye Apurte Aboriginal Community, one hour south of Alice Springs, is an extraordinarily beautiful church with walls that are painted with vibrant portraits and landscapes.

Agnes Palmer, an Arrente woman, looked at the bare walls of her church and was divinely inspired, she listened to the spirit people that look after the land and also worked for God.

This documentary explores the spiritual project led by Agnes and coordinated by Cait Wait, with many local Aboriginal women, to paint the walls of the church from the floor to the ceiling.

22 Minute Documentay
Nganampa Anwernekenhe series 17
Directed by Robyn Nardoo
Language: Arrente, with English subtitles

The dozen women working on the project expressed their beliefs through a medium they have never used before, painting. In creating the paintings the women made the church theirs.

The artists express their views on what made them, who they are and where they come from. The women visually combine their beliefs about Aboriginal culture and creation by adapting their Catholic spirituality to their own Dreamtime stories.

The colourful, larger than life paintings include a baby being christened and smoked, an Aboriginal Jesus, an Indigenous God figure and landscapes of the areas alive with native birds and wildlife.

Agnes speaks about her spiritual journey and passes on God’s message to the people. The paintings were created by the heart, soul, and love of the people.

We explore the historic creation of the Santa Teresa Church Murals.

Further clips and teachers notes are available from Australian Screen. If you intend to use this film in the classroom please purchase an educational copy from the Ronin Films.

The Art of Healing Press Release


Janie Oliver, Maryanne Ryder, Georgina Furber, Leeanne Ryder, Marie Therese Ryder, Paula Turner, Mary Theresa Mulladad, Rachel Palmer, Agnes Palmer, Veronica Wallace, Kathleen Wallace, Benita Cavanagh Cait Wait (Coordinator).

St Theresa Church History

1935 marked the beginning of missionary work amongst the aboriginal people of Centre of Australia. The “Little Flower Mission” was named by the Founder of the movement Father Patrick Moloney. The early missionaries took the indigenous people of Central Australia to their hearts and the Mission was moved from Arltunga to St Theresa between 1939 and 1945.

The Mission was named “Santa Teresa” after Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun born in Alencon, France in 1873. St Therese was also known as “THE LITTLE FLOWER” in recognition of her message to the world that little things were as important as big things, but were more readily available to perform.