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Bill Neidjie, 2000 (printed 2008)

Mark Lang

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 62.5 cm x 40.0 cm, image: 40.0 cm x 32.5 cm)

Bill Neidjie AO (c. 1913-2002), a Gagadju man, was the traditional custodian of the Kakadu area of the Northern Territory and spent most of his childhood in this region. Neidjie had only a couple of years of formal education, instead learning the traditions of his land and people with his father and grandfather. During World War 2 (or the 'big fight', as he referred to it) he worked on boats running supplies to and from Darwin and at other times worked as a buffalo hunter, a gardener and in forestry. Neidjie returned to his traditional lands around the time of the enquiry into proposed uranium mining in Kakadu. He was later a key witness in land claims and became instrumental in the establishment of Kakadu as a National Park in 1979. He worked as a ranger and cultural adviser for the National Park and in 1989 he was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to conservation. Neidjie was known as 'Big Bill' for his physical stature and became more widely known as Kakadu Man after the title of his first published book. This and his second book Story about feeling (1989) are collections of poetry and prose exploring his deep feelings for his country and his vast knowledge of its traditions and culture. He is remembered for organising and attending his own wake, a year before his death, because he wanted to 'be around to hear the nice things people said about me'. His life has been the subject of television programs and documentaries including Kakadu Man, produced by Film Australia in 1990, and Bill's Wake, made by ABC Television in 2001.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2008

Accession number: 2008.84

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Mark Lang (age 57 in 2000)

Bill Neidjie AO (age 87 in 2000)

Subject professions

Activism

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