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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.

Kath Walker [Oodgeroo Noonuccal]

1965
Clif Peir

oil on board (frame: 104.0 cm x 83.7 cm depth 5.1 cm, support: 91.3 cm x 71.4 cm)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1993), formerly Kath Walker, was a Quandamooka woman, activist, poet, writer and educator. Born in Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland, she enlisted in the Australian Women's Army Service in 1942 before beginning her career in political activism. In the 1940s she was a member of the Communist Party of Australia, which opposed racial discrimination. She became Queensland State Secretary of the Federal Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement in 1961, and campaigned successfully for amendments to Sections 51(xxvi) and 127 of the Constitution in 1967. In the 1970s she chaired a number of bodies set up to promote Indigenous interests, including the Queensland Aboriginal Advancement League. Throughout her life, she aimed to promote cultural pride among Aboriginal people through her writing, which she described as 'sloganistic, civil rightish, plain and simple'. Her first book of poetry, We are Going, published in 1964, was the first poetry publication by an Aboriginal person. Noonuccal returned to Minjerribah in 1971 where she taught Aboriginal culture to thousands of school children, and published two children's books: Stradbroke Dreamtime (1972) and Father Sky and Mother Earth (1981). Having gained world acclaim for her writing and advocacy (for which she was also conferred with four honorary doctorates), she published her last collection of poems, Kath Walker in China, in 1988. That year, she reassumed her tribal name in protest at the Bicentennial celebrations, and returned the MBE she had been awarded in 1970.

Clif Peir (1905–1985) was a Sydney painter and teacher, who studied at the Julian Ashton School under Ashton. He was President of the Australian Art Society in 1951, and later a member of the Royal Art Society of NSW and the St George Art Society. From 1950 onward he travelled extensively in Central Australia, and throughout the 1960s he painted views of desert landscapes and Aboriginal people. In the early 1960s he taught art at evening classes at Sutherland School, and also worked sporadically as an art critic for the Mirror newspaper group and a broadcaster for the BBC. He held many solo and group shows in Sydney from 1950 onward, though his principal employment was producing advertising material for the Sydney County Council. In 1970 Peir’s work was featured in an ‘Art Sale for Land Rights’ at Paddington Town Hall with proceeds going to the New South Wales, Kimberley and North Queensland Aboriginal Land Councils. Kath Walker stayed with the Peir family in Oatley while this portrait was being painted.

Gift of Richard Brian Close, Githabul people, Woodenbong 2000. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Estate of Clif Peir

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Clif Peir (age 60 in 1965)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (age 45 in 1965)

Subject professions

Activism

Donated by

Richard B. Close (1 portrait)

Graeme Baker (1 portrait)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942
Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942
Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942
Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942

Past present

Magazine article by Krysia Kitch, 2016

Krysia Kitch celebrates Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore

Painting writing

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2007

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the portraits of writers held in the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

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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.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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