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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.

Yami Lester speaks at Uluru Handback Ceremony

1985 (printed 2003)
Juno Gemes

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 51.0 cm x 60.8 cm, image: 28.9 cm x 44.0 cm)

A Yankunytjatjara man, Yami Lester OAM (1941–2017) was born at Walyatjata in the north of South Australia. As a youth he worked as a stockman, until he went blind after contracting the eye disease trachoma as a result of fallout from the nuclear bomb tests conducted by the British at Maralinga in the 1950s. He joined the Aboriginal Advancement League after moving to Adelaide. He later worked as a court interpreter in Alice Springs and served with the Institute of Aboriginal Development and the Pitjantjatjara Land Council. His campaign on behalf of Maralinga's Indigenous victims was instrumental in bringing about the 1984 McClelland Royal Commission, which recommended group compensation for Maralinga's Tjarutja people and a clean-up of uranium-contaminated lands.

Lester was also involved in the 20-year fight to return Uluru to its traditional owners, the Anangu people. On 26 October 1985, Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen handed over the title deeds to the Anangu. Lester, the first chairman of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management, addressed the crowd who gathered for the handback ceremony.

Gift of the artist 2005. 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 41 in 1985)

Yami Lester OAM (age 44 in 1985)

Subject professions

Activism

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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