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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.

Joy and Heather McKean, 1988

Jim Rolon

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 35.5 cm x 28.1 cm, image: 29.4 cm x 24.2 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Joy McKean OAM (b. 1930) and Heather McKean (b. 1932), country music performers, taught themselves to play various instruments and yodel. After Joy had contracted polio and was treated by Sister Kenny, they began performing publicly, contributing to the war effort in the 1940s. In 1949 they made their first appearance on The Melody Trail with the McKean Sisters, a radio show that ran under the same name until 1956, although for its last years it was hosted by Heather. Joy married Slim Dusty in 1951, becoming Joy Kirkpatrick, and they made their first tour in 1954. That year, Heather married another country music star, Reg Lindsay, whose Country Hour television show premiered in 1964. Between 1955 and 1983 the sisters did not perform together on stage; early in this period they ran the magazine Spurs, but soon passed responsibility for the publication to their mother, Millie. Joy Kirkpatrick has won six Golden Guitars – including, in 1973, the first awarded, for ‘Lights on the Hill’. When Heather won a Golden Guitar for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1976, the award was presented by Joy. Having reunited on stage in the early 1980s, the sisters recorded a CD together in 1993. Separately, and together, they have been inducted into various Halls of Fame. The McKean Sisters Theatrette was opened in Tamworth in early 2012.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012

Accession number: 2012.123

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Jim Rolon (age 32 in 1988)

Joy McKean OAM (age 58 in 1988)

Heather McKean (age 56 in 1988)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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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.

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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.