I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and portraying now one hundred year old Alfie “Popeye” Neal OAM for a few decades … a gentleman with quiet determination and a mission to improve the plight of Australia’s indigenous residents.
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.
In 2019 the former bush lawyer and cane cutter was awarded the ‘Medal of the Order of Australia’ (OAM) for ‘Service to the Aboriginal community, particularly the 1967 Referendum Campaign’. Alf was a leader in the decades long fight for the referendum which eventually resulted in Indigenous peoples historic recognition in Australia’s Constitution.
In light of the ongoing “Voices” campaign and upcoming referendum, I pitched an image of Alf and his three week old great great grandson … “100 Years & 3 Weeks” … to the Sunday Mail … and big thanks to journalist Michael ‘Mad Dog’ Madigan for is great words and SM Pic Ed Jamie Hanson (in his last week on the paper after 30 odd years) for getting this story across the line and over three pages of last Sundays edition.
The top pic is a very recent previously unpublished portrait of Alf that I made on his Yarrabah verandah … image two (bottom left) is a page grab of “100 Years & 3 Weeks” in the Sunday Mail … and image three (bottom right) is todays two page SM spread of Michael’s words on Alf’s colourful life and achievements with some more of my ‘Alf’ pics from across the years.
Thanks Alf, son Percy, journo ‘Mad Dog’ and pic ed Jamie. (A very ‘special Thanks’ for Jamie for being ‘one of the best’ pic editors … happy (chosen) redundancy and enjoy life outside the media, Jamie … Thanks for everything !).
Images © Brian Cassey, publication The Sunday Mail