Stories of Extraordinary First Australians
Trukanini frequently wore a necklace made of
maireener (or marina) shell.
These necklaces are very important to Aboriginal Tasmanians. Although Trukanini learned English and the customs of the colonisers, she held to her traditions including stringing and wearing these precious necklaces.
Why is continuing this tradition important for Tasmanian Aboriginal people?
Can you think of some objects that are important in your family?
Maybe there are photographs of your ancestors or handed down war medals. Draw yourself with these objects.
You may have some of Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poems and stories in your library. Find a story or a poem to read and discuss with others.
Some stories to search for include ‘Carpet Snake’ from Stradbroke Dreamtime, ‘Aboriginal Charter of Rights’ from 'The Dawn is at Hand', ‘Albert Namatjira’ from 'My People' and the titular poem from 'We Are Going'.
You might like to create an artwork about the poem or story you read.
Namatjira met many influential people. Here he is with politician Herbert Vere Evatt and poet Dame Mary Gilmore.
In 1954 Namatjira was awarded citizenship when he met the young Queen Elizabeth II in Canberra. His citizenship allowed him to buy alcohol, unlike other Aboriginal people who did not have Australian citizenship.
He shared alcohol with other Arrernte people, in accordance to their custom, but was later sentenced to prison for it.
When Captain Cook sailed up the eastern coast of Australia in 1770, he arrived in the Torres Strait.
There he claimed possession of the eastern coast of Australia on behalf of King George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland. He declared Australia as ‘terra nullius’ which is Latin for ‘land belonging to no one’.
This was the legal basis of colonisation, which Eddie Mabo challenged.
The legal case was long and featured in newspapers, journals and television media. Gordon Bennett painted this portrait four years after Mabo’s death using material from these sources, having never met him.
Bennett said that when he thought about Mabo he ‘could not think of him as a real person … I only [knew] the Eddie Mabo of the “mainstream” news media, a very two-dimensional “copy” of the man himself.’
Mabo’s face is pixelated, like a newspaper print, and is taken from a photograph of Mabo which was regularly used in the media.
Bennett explained ‘to me the image of Eddie Mabo stood like the eye of a storm, calmly asserting his rights while all around him the storm, a war of words and rhetoric, raged.’
Have you seen a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony?
What do you think it’s about?
Research and write a paragraph about the importance of the ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony and the ‘Acknowledgement of Country’.
How are they different?
Marcia likes this portrait of her because it’s not a typical ‘portrait of an Aborigine’.
This is one of many art works Andrew has created exploring the diversity of Aboriginal cultures and histories.
Locate some of his works online. Curate an exhibition of 5-10 of these art works exploring ideas about Aboriginal identities.
Write a wall label explaining your discoveries.
David Caird, a press photographer, took this photograph of Freeman just before the start of her legendary 400m final at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. It was fortuitous this photo exists, capturing a candid moment.
Freeman glanced to the sky for a fraction of a second, surrounded by a stadium full of 110,000 people, moments before the race began.
After she won the gold medal for this race, solidifying her as one of Australia’s greatest athletes of all time, she once again donned the Aboriginal and Australian flags.
O’Donoghue and Freeman both use the Aboriginal flag as a proud representation of their identity.
Explore the history and meaning of the Aboriginal flag.
Have you seen the Torres Strait Islander flag?
Create a poster about the symbols, use and importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
This map attempts to represent the language, social or nation groups of Aboriginal Australia. It shows only the general locations of larger groupings of people which may include clans, dialects or individual languages in a group. It used published resources from 1988-1994 and is not intended to be exact, nor the boundaries fixed. It is not suitable for native title or other land claims. David R Horton (creator), © AIATSIS, 1996. No reproduction without permission. To purchase a print version visit the AIATSIS online shop.
This exhibit was written by Tamsin Hong, Learning Facilitator at the National Portrait Gallery.
This exhibit was edited and produced by Alana Sivell, Digital Learning Coordinator at the National Portrait Gallery.
Thanks to all artists and organisations for letting us include these works.