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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.

Dr Roberta Sykes and Naomi, 1994

Juno Gemes

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

Roberta Sykes (1943–2010), writer and activist, became involved in Aboriginal affairs in the early 1970s. After completing her PhD at Harvard, she became the first secretary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972, and subsequently worked as a health educator and columnist, Chair of the ABC's Promotional Appeals Tribunal, and consultant to government agencies, including 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 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.

A book about Australian women was published following the establishment of the Office for Women’s Affairs by the Whitlam government in 1973. Described as a ‘collective portrait’, it featured interviews by writer and artist Virginia Fraser, along with photographs by Carol Jerrems of women from various walks of life.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2004
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Juno Gemes/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2004.151

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Juno Gemes (age 50 in 1994)

Roberta Sykes (age 51 in 1994)

Subject professions

Activism

Donated by

Juno Gemes (19 portraits)

Related information

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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.

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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.