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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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Dr Roberta Sykes and Naomi

1994
Juno Gemes

gelatin silver photograph on paper, edition 1/3 (sheet: 60.8 cm x 51.0 cm, image: 44.1 cm x 31.8 cm)

Roberta Sykes (1943–2010), writer and activist, grew up in Townsville and moved to Sydney in the mid-1960s. She became involved in the Aboriginal rights movement in the lead up to the landmark 1967 referendum and was the first secretary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972. Sykes subsequently worked as a freelance journalist, as well as writing poetry. She also worked as a health educator at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern and as an advisor on Aboriginal health and education to the NSW Health Commission. In 1981, at the age of 38, she went to Harvard University, completing her PhD in 1983. She then became a consultant to government agencies, including the Commonwealth Office of the Aged, the NSW Department of Corrective Services, and those involved in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The founder of the Black Women's Action in Education Foundation, Sykes published nine books, including two anthologies of poetry and the three-volume autobiography, collectively titled Snake Dreaming (1997–1999), which won many awards including the Age Book of the Year and the National Biography Award. Sykes won the Australian Human Rights Medal in 1994.

This image of Roberta and her daughter Naomi was taken by Juno Gemes at the 1994 National Poetry Festival in Melbourne.

Gift of the artist 2004. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Juno Gemes/Copyright Agency, 2021

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

Juno Gemes (age 50 in 1994)

Roberta Sykes (age 51 in 1994)

Subject professions

Activism

Education and research

Donated by

Juno Gemes (19 portraits)

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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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