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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.

Matilda House presides at the first Welcome to Country

2008 (printed 2009)
Juno Gemes

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 68.5 cm x 76.5 cm, image: 50.5 cm x 59.4 cm)

Dr Matilda House (b. 1945) is a Ngambri/Wiradjuri Elder who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice for Indigenous people. One of ten children, she was born on her mother's Country Wirrajah near Cowra, NSW, and then lived at Hollywood, the Aboriginal reserve outside Yass. After marrying at seventeen and having four children, she began working as a liaison officer at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra, assisting Aboriginal people with health, education, welfare and employment. A tireless supporter of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy since its founding in 1972, she helped found the Aboriginal Legal Service in Queanbeyan in the 1980s. She had a key role in establishing the Australian National University's Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre in 1989, which provides support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. On the eve of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008, she became the first person to perform the Welcome to Country at the opening of Federal Parliament. Her contribution to her community was recognised by the ANU with the conferral of the Degree of Doctor of the University in 2017.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009
© Juno Gemes/Copyright Agency, 2021

Artist and subject

Juno Gemes (age 64 in 2008)

Dr Matilda House (age 63 in 2008)

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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 National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency