Skip to main content
Menu

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.

Yami Lester speaks at Uluru Handback Ceremony

1985 (printed 2003)
Juno Gemes

gelatin silver photograph on paper, edition 1/3 + A/P (sheet: 51.0 cm x 60.8 cm, image: 28.9 cm x 44.0 cm)

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 as a result of the atomic bomb tests conducted by the British at Maralinga in the 1950s. After moving to Adelaide, he joined the Aboriginal Advancement League fighting to gain recognition of the human cost of the British nuclear tests. His campaign for the clean-up of Maralinga became his life's work and, along with the efforts of others, he 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 twenty-year fight to return Uluru to its traditional owners, the Anangu people. When Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen handed over the title deeds to the Anangu on 26 October 1985, Lester, the first chairman of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management, addressed the crowd who gathered for the ceremony. Lester's life is recounted in the autobiography Yami – shortlisted for the 1993 NSW Premier’s Prize – and also inspired Paul Kelly's 1987 song 'Maralinga (Rainy Land)'.

Gift of the artist 2005. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Juno Gemes/Copyright Agency, 2022

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)

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency