Historic photographs from the records of the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board and the work of acclaimed Indigenous photographer Mervyn Bishop are on show at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina.
The In Living Memory NSW tour is on display until Sunday 1 March 2009. The tour to Ballina is timed to honour the first anniversary of the official apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February 2008.
The In Living Memory NSW tour features images from a series of 1000 black and white photographs from the collection of State Records, the NSW State archives institution.
Most of the photographs were taken to document the work of the Board and to promote its policies.
Sue Newman, Project Officer – Aboriginal Liaison at State Records, says there are some photographs in the collection from Cabbage Tree Island, Lismore, Casino, Woodenbong, Kyogle, Coraki and Tabulam.
“We invite local Aboriginal communities to visit the exhibition and help us identify people and places in the photographs,” she said.
“In each town we visit there is always the possibility that people will find photos of lost loved ones.
“I found members of my own family in the collection that I had never seen or met before,” Ms Newman, a Dhunghatti woman, said.
The exhibition also includes contemporary images of Elders, families and communities by Mervyn Bishop, taken as part of the ongoing exhibition consultation process.
Mervyn Bishop was born in Brewarrina in 1945. Bishop commenced a four-year photography cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1962 (where he worked for 17 years), becoming Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer.
He was announced Press Photographer of the Year in 1971.
His most famous photograph shows Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring soil into the hands of Vincent Lingiari in 1975 to mark the handover of traditional land to the Gurindji people of the Northern Territory.
Vincent Lingiari had led a walk-off by Aboriginal stockmen at Wave Hill Station in 1966 which led to an eight-year strike by the stockmen and became a pivotal incident in the land rights struggle.
The strike led to one of Australia’s most enduring songs, From Little Things Big Things Grow, by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly.
In Living Memory NSW Tour is presented by State Records NSW and NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Ballina is the first of six venues the exhibition will visit in 2009. The touring exhibition next travels to Kempsey and the Sydney suburbs of Penrith and Hurstville, then Newcastle, Moruya, Bega, Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra, Dubbo and Broken Hill.
* Some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities may be distressed by seeing the name or image of a community member who has passed away.
PICTURES: Studio portrait of Linda Fernando, 1920s. Reproduced with permission of George Rose, Walgett, and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Wedding photo of James Barker and Evelyn Wighton, Brewarrina Mission, 1925. Reproduced with permission of Roy Barker, Lightning Ridge, and approval of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Vinvent Lingiari and Gough Whitlam, courtesy of Mervyn Bishop.