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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Wayne Quilliam
Video: 3 minutes 50 seconds

- Yeah, the important part about it is is where it was captured. That's the Laura Quinkan Dance Festival which is up in Far North Queensland, where our remote communities from that area all gather and generally gathered every two years to, to celebrate culture, to share knowledge, and to share stories. It had been, it's done since before non-indigenous people arrived in Australia. But these days now it's, it's one of these experiences where non-indigenous people can come and walk on this journey and see how people celebrate a culture. And I've been doing it for many, many years and I've photographed Eric's grandfather and uncles and aunties for such a long time that when I saw him on the sta-, side of the bora ground, and I had a yarn with him, we realised who each other were and I just took this quick couple of photographs. It wasn't structured, it wasn't really a portrait. It was actually capturing his essence of a strong, young, this man sharing culture. But Eric himself is just, he's a very quiet-spoken man that the essence of culture, you feel it when you're about him, the essence, you can't help be in awe of who he is and he doesn't need to say too much. And that's what I think speaks about this this image is you don't need to know much about it. You, I still look at it and I feel this sense of love and respect for our, in particular for our young men now to be respected for, apart from being cultural warriors, but they also now are nurturers, they're fathers. And that's important for us in in our aboriginal communities, is to realise that we can be strong and we are strong. That we also need to, to look at new ways of doing things. And we can re, we still maintain our connection to country and culture and be progressive, you know, aboriginal men in the future, I think it speaks well for where we're going.

- Absolutely, and what does winning this prize mean for you and for the community?

- Oh, for me. Wow, it's incredible. I've, I've, I always said that many years ago I won the Naidoc Artist of the Year Award, nothing would ever trump it. It was, it was that the community bestowed this award on me for, for the work that I've done over so many years. This one is, if not on par, it's very, very close. But awards are, are such an incredible thing because as I said, I'm looking around here in, you know the gallery to all these incredible, I call them artworks, that these captures, these artworks the strength and the vulnerability in them. I, I'm in awe of everybody that's in here. And, and I feel for them because I know what it's like to come into an award and not get it or come very close. But I also feel for them because their their essence is caught up in every one of these images and every single one of 'em is a winner. They really are. And I, we've heard all this before but the reality is that to get this far, to get into into a place like this which is so prestigious, is they've won already. So I can congratulate all of them and, and what it means to them, for our community, for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community throughout the country and also all our other indigenous brothers and sisters around the world. To have an indigenous photographer win this type of award is deeply satisfying. And I think it's, it also justifies that we are and I'm not gonna use the word "as good", but we are, within ourselves, at the top of our game in what we do, and we need to celebrate that. We need to step out the shadows and go. "we're really good at what we do". And that's what it means to me.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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