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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.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal at Moongalba Stradbroke Island (her sitting down place)1982

Juno Gemes

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 60.7 cm x 50.9 cm, image: 44.0 cm x 32.0 cm)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) (1920–1993) was an Aboriginal activist, poet and writer. Throughout her life, she aimed to promote cultural pride amongst Aboriginal people through her writing, which she described as ‘sloganistic, civil rightish, plain and simple’. She became State secretary of the Federal Council for the advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in 1961, and campaigned successfully for amendments to Sections 51(xxvi) and 127 of the Constitution in 1967. In the 1970s she chaired a number of bodies set up to promote indigenous interests, including the Queensland Aboriginal Advancement League. Having gained world acclaim for her writing and advocacy (for which she was also conferred with three honorary doctorates), she published her last collection of poems, Kath Walker in China, in 1988. That year, she reassumed her tribal name in protest at the Bicentennial celebrations, and returned the MBE she had been awarded in 1970.

Juno Gemes arrived in Australia from Budapest with her family in 1949. Educated at the University of Sydney, she worked in theatre and journalism before holding her first solo exhibition, We Wait No More, in 1982. That year she exhibited photographs in the group shows After the Tent Embassy and Apmira – Artists for Aboriginal Land Rights. The National Portrait Gallery exhibited her portraits of Indigenous activists Proof: Portraits from the Movement in 2003 and has since acquired many of her photographs.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Juno Gemes 2009
© Juno Gemes/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2009.95

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Juno Gemes (age 38 in 1982)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (age 62 in 1982)

Subject professions

Activism

Donated by

Juno Gemes (19 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942
Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942
Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942
Studio portrait of servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, c.1942

Past present

Magazine article by Krysia Kitch, 2016

Krysia Kitch celebrates Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

Dame Mary Gilmore, c. 1938 Lyall Trindall
Dame Mary Gilmore, c. 1938 Lyall Trindall
Dame Mary Gilmore, c. 1938 Lyall Trindall
Dame Mary Gilmore, c. 1938 Lyall Trindall

Painting writing

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2007

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the portraits of writers held in the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole
Rosie Batty, 2017 Nikki Toole

Express Yourself

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition celebrates Australians whose unique life experiences symbolise social and cultural forces. Uncompromising individuality defines them. The portraits are drawn from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection of contemporary photography and drawing.

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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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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 both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.