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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.

JOH (The Hon Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen)

c. 1987
Noel Stapleton

synthetic polymer paint on canvas board (frame: 84.2 cm x 59.0 cm, support: 72.6 cm x 50.8 cm)

Hon Joh Bjelke-Petersen KCMG (b. 1911), former Premier of Queensland, was a beef and peanut farmer before he entered politics in 1947. From 1950 until he resigned in 1987 he held the seat of Barambah for the National Party. Meanwhile, he became Premier in 1968. His style, encapsulated in his famous phrase 'don't you worry about that' was both aggressively conservative and individualistic; his premiership was marked by rapid economic and population growth in Queensland. In 1986 he emerged as a possible prime minister, but the 'Joh for PM' roadshow crashed when Bob Hawke called an early election in June 1987. Bjelke-Petersen resigned later that year. The ensuing Fitzgerald Enquiry into corruption in Queensland led to the laying of charges against several of his former ministers. He himself was charged on several counts, but tried only for perjury. The charge was dropped when the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Noel Stapleton, commercial artist, began his career in Brisbane in 1944. At the age of 22 he turned freelance and moved to Sydney, where he has worked ever since, achieving considerable success in advertising and other promotional work. Stapleton painted this portrait to serve as a fund-raiser for the 'Joh for PM' campaign. The work travelled widely around the country as a centrepiece for the campaign, and many autographed copies of it were sold. Stapleton was asked to appear on 'The Mid-day Show' to promote sales, but refused, stating that as an ex-Queenslander he was happy to take Joh's money for doing the work but wanted nothing to do with the campaign. When the campaign folded in 1987 he requested the return of this original, and it came back to him in its travelling case.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2003
© Estate of Noel Stapleton

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

Noel Stapleton (age 60 in 1987)

Hon Joh Bjelke-Petersen KCMG (age 76 in 1987)

Subject professions

Government and leadership

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Elle Macpherson
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Elle Macpherson
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Australian Visit

Previous exhibition, 2006

The exhibition will include works of art from the NPG Canberra's permanent collection with some inward loans and aims to highlight the achievements of notable Australians.

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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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