Last Friday saw the opening eve of the awards in Perth … and the forty works selected as Finalists filled the PCP gallery. There was my image “100 Years & 3 Weeks – Alf Neal OAM” hanging nicely on the wall (thanks to the printing and framing skills of Paul Maietta and the crew at Fitzgerald Photo Imaging).
A little forward planning and a lot of positive finger crossing meant that I managed to arrive in Perth from London two days before Fridays’ opening event (shattered following the seventeen hour direct flight that I booked many months ago !).
It’s the third time in a row that my work has been selected as a finalist in this biennial award … links to my previous Finalist works may be found here (2021) … and here (2019) .
Sadly Alf didn’t get to hear of this latest ‘recognition’ of his work in indigenous community and on the 1967 referendum, as he passed away quietly in May this year.
However, “100 Years & 3 Weeks – Alf Neal OAM” is continuing to wrack up accolades and preserve the memory of a wonderful inspirational Yarrabah gentleman.
A few nice recognitions over the past few weeks … 🙂
Firstly … so nice to once again be selected as a Finalist in the Perth Centre for Photography’s ‘IRIS’ portrait awards … a biennial award that my work has now been selected for the third time in a row. The actual finalist works chosen this time are still a necessary secret … but all will be revealed when the exhibition of finalist and winners works opens at PCP’s Perth gallery on September 1st. Fortunately I will be in Perth at that time en route back from the UK.
PCP describes the ‘IRIS’ awards so … “The IRIS Award celebrates excellence in portraiture photography, revealing portraits that are unique, original and conceptually stimulating. IRIS has been running for 18 years, with the inaugural exhibition held back in 2003”.
Honoured to be accepted by the Kuku Djungan clan and the Neal family to document the funeral and interment ‘on country’ of the legendary highly respected aboriginal elder, bush lawyer and former cane cutter Alf Neal OAM.
Alf passed away with dignity in late May at the age of 100 … after a legendary life devoted to the betterment of Australia’s indigenous peoples.
Alf “Popeye” Neal was born in 1922 on his beloved country at Ngarrabullgan west of Cairns, Alf was moved to the indigenous community of Yarrabah at the age of two. His earliest memories were of learning aboriginal lore – and white man law.
In the 60’s Alf was a major member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League which fought a decade long campaign to have Indigenous peoples recognised in the Constitution and counted in the census of 1967.
In 2019 he was awarded the ‘Medal of the Order of Australia’ for ‘Service to the Aboriginal community, particularly the 1967 Referendum Campaign’.
I’ve portrayed Alf many times over the years … and like to think I’m a Neal family friend. I’ll sure miss the quiet impressive gentleman … and so will Australia’s ATSI community at large.
His funeral was at St Alban’s Church in Yarrabah … where it appeared half the community turned up. (top 2 images). His interment followed the next day on his beautiful Ngarrabullgan traditional country and attended by his extended Djungan clan, Neal family and invited guests (bottom 3). These are just a handful of the many I made over the two days of proceedings.
It wasn’t unexpected but that didn’t make it any easier to take.
Just a few days ago I learnt the very, very sad news that Alf Neal OAM … the 100 year old Yarrabah indigenous elder and a driving force behind the 1967 referendum that resulted in Indigenous peoples historic recognition in Australia’s Constitution … died peacefully and with dignity surrounded by his family.
Just over six weeks ago I saw Alf … affectionally known as ‘Popeye’ … for the very last time. It was on the balcony of his seafront home opposite the site of the old ‘tree of knowledge’ in Yarrabah.
I have known and photographed Alf for a couple of decades and it was sad to see him so bodily frail … but even so it was obvious that his brain was still sharp despite his difficulties in communication. Son Percy did an admirable job translating and relaying Alf’s thoughts for Michaels notes. At one stage when I was focused on Alf’s face from a distance he broke into a grin of recognition as he saw me … a magical moment for me personally.
Long an advocate and fighter for indigenous rights, Alf was born in the early 1920’s on his beloved country at Ngarrabullgan (Mount Mulligan) west of Cairns. Moved to the indigenous community of Yarrabah, he was baptised at the age of 2 and grew up in dormitories. His earliest memories were of learning white man law alongside the traditions of aboriginal lore.
Alf grew to be a prominent indigenous leader and a major driving force in the decades long fight for the 1967 referendumwhich resulted in Indigenous peoples historic recognition in Australia’s Constitution. For his efforts, in 2019 the former bush lawyer, cane cutter and baker was awarded the ‘Medal of the Order of Australia’ (OAM) for ‘Service to the Aboriginal community, particularly the 1967 Referendum Campaign’.
I’ve made images of Alf many times over the decades as he voiced his opinion on many issues relating to the lives of Australia’s aboriginal and islander population. Sadly that voice is now silent. A tragedy that he won’t be around to see (hopefully) a ‘Yes’ vote in the “Indigenous Voice to Parliament’ referendum later this year.
The family have given permission for this image to be used. My condolences to the Neal family, to Yarrabah and the aboriginal community in general. Alf was majestic and a delight and will be greatly missed.
Always satisfying when ‘new’ pics get a bit of attention.
The images “100 Years & 3 Weeks – Alf” and “Do Not Resuscitate – Peter Potter” … below … are the two works that were jointly selected as the Winner of the ‘People’ category.
“100 Years & 3 Weeks” (bottom) features prominent Kuku Djungan elder and aboriginal and islander leader and activist Alf Neal and his three week old great great grandson Kailan Murgha at their Yarrabah home two days before the community celebration of Alf’s centenary.
Alf was a driving force in a decade long fight for the 1967 referendum which resulted in Indigenous peoples recognition in Australia’s Constitution. He was awarded ‘Medal of the Order of Australia’ (OAM) for ‘Service to the Aboriginal community’ in 2019.
“Do Not Resuscitate – Peter Potter” (top) features prominent Master Potter … Peter “Potter” Thompson … in his Kuranda rainforest studio ‘Five Treasures’ where he produces his imaginative Asian/Taoist inspired clay works fired in wood-fired kilns.
“Potter” is something of a miracle having survived three heart attacks over his decades long career producing works that have graced galleries far and wide. The tattoo over his pace maker enhanced heart and chest states ’N F Resuscitare’ (‘Do Not Resuscitate’) and his blood group … a testament to his longevity and Impeccably wry and dry sense of humour.
I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Kuku Djungan elder Alfred Neal OAM on many occasions over the years.
Last week his one hundredth birthday was marked by a community celebratory event in the indigenous community of Yarrabah in far north Queensland.
Alf was born in the early 1920’s on his beloved country at Ngarrabullgan (Mount Mulligan) 100 kilometres west of Cairns. He was removed to the Yarrabah township near Cairns, baptised at the age of 2 and grew up in dormitories. His earliest memories were of learning white man law alongside the centuries long traditions of aboriginal lore. Alf sees his Aboriginal culture as the driving force and ‘best thing’ in his life.
The former bush lawyer and cane cutter, affectionately known by his family as “Popeye”, has long served as an advocate for indigenous rights. In 2019 Alf was awarded ‘Medal of the Order of Australia’ (OAM) for ‘Service to the Aboriginal community, particularly to the 1967 Referendum Campaign’. Alf was a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League and successfully waged a decade long fight for the referendum which resulted in Indigenous peoples recognition in Australia’s Constitution.
With the help of his son Percy and family I made this image of Alf and his three week old great great grandson Kailan Murgha at their Yarrabah home two days before the community celebration of Alf’s centenary.