The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture (ed. Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, 2000) comments that Meeks 'is a pioneer of urban contemporary Aboriginal art, and a noted writer and illustrator of children's books which explore stories and imagery of Cape York (Qld).' Meeks moved to North Queensland with his mother when he was a baby and grew up on the Queensland coast near Dunk Island. He lived with his grandfather, one of the Kokoimudji people from the Cooktown area. As a boy his grandfather had begun initiation into the Kokoimudji tribe in the Laura area but was taken with his family to live at Yarrabah Reserve before completing the process. Meeks's grandfather taught him love and respect for the bush and the spirits that live there.
Having begun to draw at an early age using clay and berries for paint and his own hair for brushes, Meeks was encouraged by a cousin who bought paint and paper for him and offered strength and guidance. He completed a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) degree at the City Art Institute in Sydney in 1984. He later returned to Queensland to study with tribal elders, including the Lardil people of Mornington Island. Thancoupie, a distinguished ceramicist, adopted him and gave him the tribal name of Arone (Black Crane) which included the right to express the culture and legends of the Cape York people in his art.
Meeks was a foundation member of the Boomalli urban Aboriginal Arts Co-operative in Sydney. In 1989 he won an Australia Council fellowship to study in Paris and exhibited throughout Europe and North and South America. He began printmaking in 1982 in collaboration with printmaker Theo Tremblay. A cultural exchange to Santa Fe in the United States during the 1990s also influenced his work. Meeks exhibited nationally and internationally with works in most public collections within Australia.
Percy Trezise was born in Tallangatta and educated at Albury High School. He served as a pilot during World War II, enlisting on 7 December 1941 and being discharged on 4 September 1945. He moved to Cairns in 1965 to fly for Ansett Airlines and the Aerial Ambulance. A renowned landscape artist, Trezise was also responsible for bringing the Quinkan Aboriginal rock arts sites to public attention. He spent many years photographing the sites and building strong relationships with the Aboriginal people of the Laura area on Cape York Peninsula.
Trezise wrote dozens of children's picture books. Many of them were themed around issues of conservation or Aboriginal mythology, and about half were co-authored with Dick Roughsey. (Trezise became Roughsey's brother in a traditional Aboriginal ceremony and was given the name Warrenby.) Trezise also wrote The Rock Art of South-East Cape York (1971).
In 2004 Trezise was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by James Cook University for service to the north Queensland community. He is survived by his son, Matt Trezise (q.v.).
(Major source: Cairns Post, 23 May 2005)
Dick Roughsey was born near Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1924. His name is translated from his tribal name Goobalathaldin, meaning 'water standing on end' or 'Rough sea'. He received a traditional upbringing in the bush until the age of eight, when he was educated at a Presyterian mission school. After completing primary school he returned to tribal life. At the age of sixteen he went to the Australian mainland, to work as a stockman on cattle stations in North Queensland and as a deckhand on ships near Cairns.
He began to paint using traditional methods with bark. In 1962 he met former Ansett pilot, Percy Trezise, who became his mentor and encouraged him to also use Western methods of painting in oils. Roughsey held successful exhibitions of his work in many Australian cities. He and Trezise collaborated for many years, producing picture books which retold traditional stories. These were among the first to introduce Aboriginal culture to children. Roughsey also illustrated The Turkey and the Emu (1978), a traditional tale retold by his wife, Elsie Roughsey
Roughsey lived with his wife and their six children on Mornington Island, but usually spent half of each year on the North Queensland mainland. With Percy Trezise he discovered and studied the art in Aboriginal cave galleries in the Laura region of Cape York. One of these was the Quinkin gallery, which inspired the award-winning books The Quinkins and Turramulli the Giant Quinkin.
He was the first chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council in 1973.
Jan Ormerod was trained in design and worked in art schools and colleges until her first child was born. It was at this time that Ormerod became interested in picture books and felt this would necessitate a move to either the eastern states of Australia or to London; the family subsequently moved to London.
In an interview, published in 2002 on Adhoc, a UK website, Ormerod says: '[My] early work was very much based on my own family, when my children were very small and details on day to day life were my whole world...I wrote the text - and the words and image were both mine. But now, no longer having small children I draw from a wider range of stimuli and sometimes I write the text, sometimes a text gets offered to me...Quite a proportion of my work now is illustrating texts written by other people.'
Ormerod illustrated works for children by both English and American writers including an edition of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan published by Viking Kestral in 1988.
Boori Pryor is a descendant of the Kungganji and Birri-Gubba people of North Queensland. Boori has worked in the film and television industry and also theatre-in-education. He is best-known as a storyteller, travelling widely to introduce his culture to young Australians.
In collaboration with Meme McDonald, he has published a series of books based on his life and the stories of his family. Their first collaboration, Maybe Tomorrow (1998), received a Special Commendation from the Human Rights Awards and their second, My Girragundji (1998), won a Children's Book Council of Australia Award. They have since published several more books, most notably The Binna Binna Man (1999), which won several awards, including the Ethnic Affairs Commission Award in 2000.
In 2012-2013, Pryor was the joint inaugural Australian Children's Laureate. His work has been taught in universities across Australia, and has won multiple awards, including the Prime Minister's Literary Award, the Victorian Premier's Literary award, and the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award (which he won in three categories, for the same novel, in 2000).
Boori's father was Monty Prior.
Bronwyn Bancroft is an Aboriginal artist and designer from the Bundjalung/Djanbun clan whose artworks have been collected and shown throughout Australia and the world. Bancroft grew up in the country town of Tenterfield and has completed a Diploma of Visual Communications, a Master of Studio Practice and a Master of Visual Arts (Painting).
She founded Designer Aboriginals, a company that showcases her creative works in their different mediums. Bancroft held the position of Chairperson of the National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association, which aimed to pursue equality for Indigenous people through their creativity.
Dub (David) Leffler is one of thirteen children and grew up in the small town of Quirindi, south of Tamworth in New South Wales. He is descended from the Bigambul and Kamilaroi (Gomeroi ) people of south-west Queensland and of Syrian, French and Irish descent.
He began his visual arts career as an animator, and worked as a muralist and art teacher. He has illustrated several children's books and has collaborated with internationally recognised illustrators. Once There was a Boy was the first book that Leffler has written and illustrated. (Source: Magabala Books website; My Book Corner website)
Ezekiel Kwaymullina is a Palkyu person whose family comes from the north west of Western Australia. He is the son of Sally Morgan and the brother of Ambelin Kwaymullina and Blaze Kwaymullina . Ezekiel's work is inspired by his love of fantasy novels, anime, video games and films.
Ambelin Kwaymullina graduated from the University of Western Australia in 1998 with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons). She worked in the areas of natural resource management, law reform and politics. Kwaymullina published her first work for children, the picture book Crow and the Waterhole, in 2007.
In February 2010, Fremantle Press announced Ambelin Kwaymullina had been selected among 25 Australian illustrators whose work will be exhibited by the Australian Publishers' Association at the Brologna Children's Book Fair in March 2010 for Crow and the Waterhole. The exhibition promotes Australian culture and literary culture internationally.
She has subsequently published a wide range of children's books, both independently and in collaboration with family members.
'Katrina Germein grew up in Adelaide, South Australia. In 1997 she began teaching at Minyerri, a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Minyerri was the setting for her first picture book, Big Rain Coming, and the story of Leaving was also inspired by her experiences there.' (Source: Reading Australia website)
Sally Morgan's parents were William Joseph (a plumber) and Gladys Milroy. After her father's death, Morgan and her four siblings were raised by her mother and grandmother. Having been told that they were of Indian background, she discovered in her teens that the family had "part"-Aboriginal ancestry from her mother's and grandmother's side. This discovery motivated her later research into her family's history and culminated in the writing of her autobiographical work, My Place, which integrates the life stories of her mother (Gladys Milroy), her grandmother (Daisy Corunna), and her grandmother's brother (Arthur Corunna). She married Paul Morgan (a teacher) in 1972. In 1974, she completed her BA at the University of Western Australia, majoring in psychology, and continued with postgraduate diplomas in Counselling Psychology, Computing and Library Studies at the Western Australian Institute of Technology.
My Place, published in 1987, immediately became a best-seller, regarded as a revelation for white readers into the plight of Aboriginal people. However, the book's extraordinary success has also drawn some criticism, from white and Aboriginal voices, raising questions of authenticity and the construction of Aboriginality, as its author had not experienced life in a 'typical' Aboriginal community. Yet the book has become an 'Australian classic', with more than half a million copies sold in Australia to date. It has been translated into several foreign languages. Morgan has also gained a considerable international reputation as an artist, and has written and illustrated children's books. The Art of Sally Morgan was published in 1996.
Morgan has won numerous awards and prizes, among them the Human Rights Award for her 1989 biography of an Aboriginal relative, Jack McPhee, Wanamurraganya. In 1997, she was appointed Director of the University of Western Australia Centre for Indigenous Art and History. She has also held the positions of Chair of Aboriginal Literature Committee and membership of the Literature Board of Australia Council. Morgan worked at the School of Indigenous Studies (University of Western Australia) in the area of oral history. In a 2004 interview, she said that she sees writing as
a vehicle to give people a voice, for people to be heard, a vehicle that can tell our family stories and give a deeper balance and insight into the past as well as the present. I have been helping people to tell their stories. The last eight years I have been working with other Indigenous people and have been doing editorial work for oral history projects, which have been published as community resources. (Source: Interview with Blanch Lake, Aboriginal Information and Liaison Officer, Arts Law)
She continues to write and illustrate children's books, for which she has won or been shortlisted for a wide range of awards.
Ian Abdulla's mother, Jemima Hunter, was from Raukkan (Port McLeay) and his father was an Afghan man from Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. He and his twin brother Rodney were born under a tree on the banks of the lower River Murray at Swan Reach Mission in 1947.
In 1961, Abdullah's family moved to Gerard Aboriginal Community. He worked in the rural industry: picking grapes, monitoring irrigation and driving machinery. Abdullah's experience with Christianity during his childhood and adult life is reflected in some of his artwork. Examples of his art work are held in many private and public collections and are also the subject of the book Ian W. Abdulla : Elvis has left the Building (2003).
Nganalgindja was a Kunwinjku woman from Arnhem Land. Catherine Berndt, who with her husband Ronald Berndt, recorded oral histories and stories of the Indigenous people among whom they worked, recorded her traditional story in writing and published it in English in an award-winning book for children.
In Land of the Rainbow Snake (1979), where the story was first published, Berndt wrote: 'Nganalgindja told the story. She was a young girl when she first heard it from her mother and from her "auntie" who was one of the owners of the country where it happened' (p. 28).
Catherine Helen Berndt was an anthropologist who recorded and translated a number of Aboriginal stories, some of them in the form of poems. Daughter of J. McG. Webb, Catherine Berndt was born in Auckland, then her family moved to Wellington. She attended Victoria College, University of New Zealand, taking a degree in Classics (1939), and Otago University, before moving to Sydney to study Anthropology.
Here she met and married in 1941 fellow-Anthropology student, Ronald Murray Berndt (q.v.), with whom she was to collaborate for nearly fifty years in anthropological studies in Australia and in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. They studied the Aboriginal community at Ooldea, then looked at Aboriginal labour on some of the cattle stations in the north-west of the Northern Territory. Returning to Sydney they taught with Professor Elkin. In South Australia they studied the Aborigines of the Adelaide area, then began their life-long study of the Aborigines of Arnhem Land.
From 1953 to 1955, they studied at the London School of Economics, completing dissertations for their PhDs. In 1961, Berndt was a Foundation member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. In 1963, Ronald Berndt was appointed the founding Professor of Anthropology in the University of Western Australia, and he and Berndt made a number of field trips to Aboriginal communities throughout the state, and continued to visit Arnhem Land.
Following the Aboriginal traditional division of labour, Berndt worked on the status of women, marriage and family, religion and oral literature, while Ronald Berndt worked with the men on social organisation, myth and ritual. Berndt was interested in the relationship between the sexes and the way the sexes interacted for the stability of the community.
In 1984, Berndt was made an Honorary Research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Western Australia, and in 1987 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia. She won a number of awards for her anthropological work and, in 1980, won the NSW Premier's Literature Award. Together Catherine and Ronald Berndt had a considerable influence on the development of Australian anthropolgy and Aboriginal welfare. Ronald Berndt died in Perth in 1990, and Berndt died four years later.
Kalkarinji School was established in 2003, providing a curriculum for students from both the Kalkarindji and Daguragu communities in the Northern Territory. In 2002, the school was selected to be the first 'Remote Secondary Provision Project School'. (Source: Kalkarinji School website)
Songwriter and composer Kev Carmody, of Aboriginal and Irish descent, grew up on a cattle station near Goranba, Queensland. At the age of ten he was removed from his parents and sent to a Christian school. He later returned to rural Queensland where he worked as a labourer for 17 years.
At the age of 33 Carmody began studying at university, later progressing to work on a PhD on the history of the Darling Downs between 1830 and 1860. His music career began during this phase of his life and he subsequently became a travelling singer/songwriter touring Australia and the world. Carmody's songs have been covered by various artists including Paul Kelly and his album Cannot Buy My Soul was shortlisted in the 2007 Deadly Awards, Album Release of the Year.(Source: Carmody's website)
Drawing 'inspiration from her elders and the environment', Janice Lyndon has been painting since childhood. She has participated in a number of group exhibitions and recently undertook a Diploma of Aboriginal Arts at TAFE.
Lyndon illustrated her first children's book, The Mark of the Wagarl (2004), at the request of the author, her aunt and elder, Lorna Little . She has lived in Perth (Western Australia) and is the mother of nine children.
A Binjareb elder, Lorna Little spent her formative years at the Moore River Native Settlement. During World War II, Little's family moved back to their ancestral home in Pinjarra, Western Australia. It was there that she learnt the Nyoongar language and cultural stories of her people.
After a serious bout of rheumatic fever, Little was forced to leave school at the age of ten. With a limited education she was left with few employment options and subsequently undertook work as a domestic. But her lack of schooling was a source of embarrassment and at the age of seventeen she decided to pursue an education. Attending the 7th Day Adventist College in Perth, Little had to work in the kitchen to earn her keep at the school; beginning her days at four in the morning, she would light the stoves then study until it was time to begin preparing the breakfasts.
Little went on to successfully obtain her nursing requirements and work as a nurse's aide. In the early 1980s, she was involved in setting up the Aboriginal Bridging Course at WAIT (now Curtin University of Technology) where she eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science. She has also worked with Rotary International to improve educational opportunities for Indigenous Australians. More recently she has been working on a team project to translate the bible into the Nyoongar language.
She has published her first children's book, The Mark of the Wagarl(2004), a traditional Nyoongar story which was passed onto Little by her cultural grandparents. The work, illustrated by the author's niece, Janice Lyndon, reinforces Little's inspiration to write as she states: 'I believe Aboriginal people die spiritually when their culture dies and I worry about our young people because many of them do not know their culture any more.'
Trina Saffioti is a descendant of the Gugu Yalanji people of North Queensland. Her grandmother was a member of the Stolen Generations. Saffioti's writing has been influenced by the creation stories of her grandmother and the family stories her mother told her. (Source: Magabala Books website)
Norma MacDonald a descendant from the Yamitji people of the Gascoyne region and the Nyungar people of the South West of Western Australia. In 1994, she enrolled as the only Aboriginal art student at Midland College of TAFE (Western Australia). She has since established a career as a full-time artist and has illustrated a children's picture book, Corroboree (2004). MacDonald's work has been successfully shown in both group and solo exhibitions which include: 'I Can Fly' (2002) and 'Coming Home' (2003). Her paintings have been sold overseas and in 2003 a MacDonald work was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. MacDonald's daughter is author and artist, Robyn Templeton.
Grace Fielding was raised at the Wandering Mission near Perth in Western Australia, before moving to Broome, Western Australia. With no official art training, she has worked as a screen printer for an Aboriginal Women's resource centre. Grace had illustrated several children's books and is celebrated for her traditional and contemporary art styles.
'Roma Winmar has worked significantly in Indigenous education and the arts where she is continuously working with promoting Noongar language and cultural activities and has translated many children’s songs into Noongar.
'She has extensive language skills and is [...] employed as a Noongar language teacher at Western Australia’s Moorditj College. She has delivered sessions at conferences on language and sits on the Department of Education’s Curriculum Council in setting standards and educational expectations for Noongar language taught at secondary and TEE levels.
'Roma was the language and cultural consultant on the play Yibiyung written by her daughter Dallas Winmar. Roma, under the name of Yibiyung, has worked with the Carrolup School of artists.' (Source : UWAP website)
'The Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project Incorporated Reference Group comprises family members who are descended from the South West of Western Australia and are interested in publishing and promoting some of the stories from that area'
'The Group’s main objective is to reclaim Wirlomin stories and dialect, in support of the maintenance of Noongar language, and to share them with Noongar families and communities as part of a process to claim, control and enhance Wirlomin Noongar cultural heritage.' (Source: UWA Publishing website)
Kim Scott is a multi-award winning Indigenous author from Western Australia. He grew up near Albany, in southern Western Australia, then on leaving school completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Graduate Diploma in Education at Murdoch University, in Perth. He initially worked as a secondary school teacher and later turned to writing full-time.
Scott began working on his first novel, the semi-autobiographical True Country (1993), whilst teaching at a remote Aboriginal community in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Since then he has gained widespread critical acclaim for the way in which his writing explores questions of identity, race and history, and also for his interest in finding ways that Indigenous people might connect their ancient heritage to contemporary life. His friend John Fielder has written that Scott "is an important figure in Australia today because of his creative quest to open up new and different ways of 'being black', and to provide a language for that which is otherwise un-utterable".
In 2000, Scott became the first Indigenous author to win the Miles Franklin Literary Award, with his novel Benang: From the Heart (1999). In 2011 he won both the Miles Franklin and the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal with That Deadman Dance (2010). He was a guest speaker at the 2001 Century of Federation Alfred Deakin Lecture Series in Melbourne. He presented at the 2004 Melbourne 'Globalisation and Identities' forum. He has been a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council. In 2012 he was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and also named West Australian of the Year.
Since completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia in 2009, Scott has been involved with the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and also the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Story Project. Scott was appointed Professor of Writing in the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts of Curtin University in December, 2011. He is a member of The Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT), leading its Indigenous Culture and Digital Technologies research program.
'Lomas Roberts was an Elder of the Wirlomin Noongar clan, father, grandfather and uncle to many people and was highly respected for his Noongar cultural knowledge.
'His working life included stints as shearer, plant operator, farm labourer and as a boxer he won bouts at state and national levels and was a major drawcard for George Stewart’s boxing troupe.' (Source : UWA Publishing website)