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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 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.

Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) and Lois O'Donoghue (Lowitja O'Donoghue) at the opening of the inaugural National Aboriginal Conference, Canberra

1978 (printed 2014)
Mervyn Bishop

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.6 cm x 50.8 cm, image: 30.3 cm x 30.5 cm)

Lowitja O’Donoghue (b. 1932) and Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1993) are two strong, prominent figures in the Aboriginal rights movement. Quandamooka woman and esteemed poet Noonuccal was a leading voice in the charge for nationwide recognition of Australia's Indigenous people, including the campaign for the 1967 Referendum for constitutional change and co-founding the National Tribal Council in 1970. An early career in nursing ultimately led Yankunjatjara woman O'Donoghue into Indigenous advocacy and public administration. She worked with the Australian government on native title, was the inaugural Chair of both the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) in 1978, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 1990, and helped draft the Mabo legislation. Both women have been unswerving in their lifelong commitment to use their voices to call for recognition and rights for First Nations people. In her powerful Australia Day Address on 24 January 2000, O’Donoghue said 'my dearest hope is that I may be able to contribute to positive change'.

This portrait was taken as part of Mervyn Bishop's work as photographer for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Noonuccal and O’Donoghue were attending the inaugural meeting of the NAC in Canberra in April 1978. This double portrait captures the spirit, hope and dedication of two important Indigenous leaders at this formative and fraught moment.

Purchased 2015
© Mervyn Bishop

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.
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Show transcript

Artist and subject

Mervyn Bishop (age 33 in 1978)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (age 58 in 1978)

Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE DSG (age 46 in 1978)

Subject professions

Activism

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.

Lowitja O'Donoghue and Robert Hannaford

'I'm going to wear everything red, black, and yellow'

Portrait story

Lowitja O'Donoghue discusses her life and portrait by Robert Hannaford.

Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore
Dame Mary Gilmore

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.

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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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 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