The Funeral and Interment of Alf Neal OAM …

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.

More images from these two ’sorry’ days may be found on my IG page here …  … and on my FB page here ……  whilst previous posts with more on Alf’s life and my portraits etc may be found here … … & …… & …

Vale Alf … now forever ‘on country’.

Images © Brian Cassey

More For The Awards Page …

… just about recovering from personal euphoria following my exhibition opening at the Court House Gallery and the Nikon Walkley Portrait Prize win (Thanks to all for your comments, likes etc etc !) … whilst in the meantime these items about some other very pleasant ‘recognitions’ and ‘mentions in dispatches’ have also arrived … for the record as follows …

Head On Portrait Prize Semi Finalist  … “The Yarrick Family of Kunhahaa” … screening at the Head On Portrait Prize exhibition now showing at Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Sydney.

Australian Photography Awards … Two Shortlisted in ‘Documentary’ … “The Yarrick Family of Kunhahaa” & “Tears For George Floyd – 8 Minutes & 46 Seconds”.  Winners will be announced over the five days between November 29th and December 3rd.

Fotonostrum International Portrait Award – ‘Jury’s Special Selection’ by Art Streiber – “Tears For George Floyd – 8 Minutes & 46 Seconds”, “Kate – Waiting For Her New Breasts II” & “The Yarrick Family Of Kunhanhaa”.

International Photography Awards (IPA) – Highly Commended X 2 – ‘People’ – “The Yarrick Family Of Kunhanhaa” – ‘Editorial’ – “Tears For George Floyd – 8 Minutes & 46 Seconds”.

Black & White Spider Awards 16th Edition – Finalist Nominee X 4 in ‘Silhouette’ – “Charlie & the Pandemic”, ‘Portrait’ – “Ramnami” & “The Skin I’m In II’, ‘Photojournalism’ – “Tears For George Floyd – 8 Minutes & 46 Seconds”.

Very pleased about that. The complete list of ‘Awards’ … (shameless self promotion) … can be found here …

Some will be aware that lots of these images (above) have been previously recognised in other awards and splashed around a lot lately … so … here’s two from the list (Black & White Spyder Awards) that havn’t 🙂 … for  “Charlie & the Pandemic” it’s a ‘first’ … and for “Ramnami” it’s a fourth gong (but I like it 😉  … below)

Images © Brian Cassey

Black & White Spyder Awards -Nominee - Silhouette - "Charlie & the Pandemic" by Brian Cassey

Black & White Spyder Awards - Nominee - Portrait - "Ramnami" by Brian Cassey

Russ …

It was a kick in the guts … the news that my mentor and mate … photojournalist legend and World Press Photo winner Russell McPhedran … had died in his sleep at the age of 82.

Sounds silly … but I’d never thought of that happening to ‘Russ’. Not large in stature, but massive in character and accomplishments, Russ had a more than significant influence on my career as a photographer. in the late 80’s and 90’s Russell took this brat of a freelance under his wing … as he did with so many other less than experienced photographers … taught me the ropes and trusted me to work on photo assignments of international importance for Associated Press of America (AP).

Just some of those stories were … the tsunami disaster in Sissano Papua New Guinea, George Speight’s coup in Fiji, the evacuation of survivors of the Bali bomb blasts, the exodus of Timor Leste refugees from the aggression of the Indonesians … and the World Economic Forum riots closer to home in Melbourne. There were many more … including a memorable few days in Port Douglas searching for Clinton’s ‘Monica Lewinsky’.

Russ had asked me to rush to Port when the story ‘broke’. It was soon obvious that Monica wasn’t there and wasn’t arriving either.  I rang Russ to let him know. The call went something like this … “OK Brian … can’t hear you … just putting my golf clubs in the car and I’ll be up there in a few hours”.  He was too … his second love after beating everyone to the best news pic was golf.

Before I learned about ‘the wires’ and agency ‘play’ Russell had already made some of the most memorable images of the twentieth century. Arguably the most notable was the image (described by Australian photojournalist and commentator Mike Bowers as the best known news Image ever made by an Australian) of a member of the Palestinian ‘Black September’ terrorist group during the murderous attack on the Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

There were many more Russ images that circled the planet just like he did during a career that began at The Sun newspaper in Sydney. Wordsmiths have penned many tributes to Russ over the last few days … and tell his story far better than I. Please find a couple of them here … from the New York Times and the South China Morning Post. There are many more on the net …

Mike Bowers made this memorable statement when Russ was inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame last November … “Few photographers take a picture powerful enough to enter the permanent consciousness of a nation, let alone become instantly recognizable around the world. Russ has a clutch of them”. Mike’s full tribute is here.

Russ’s funeral on Monday … ‘A Celebration of Life’ … was as memorable as his work and I was honoured to be there to say goodbye. The throng in attendance was a ‘who’s who’ of Australia’s media … including PJ colleagues Mark ‘Crusty’ Baker, Rick Rycroft, Rick Stevens, David Gray, John French, Paul Matthews, Phil Hillyard, Stephen Holland, Verity Chambers, Peter Morris, Patrick Riviere, Gregg Porteous, Will Burgess, Quentin Jones, Paul Lovelace (apols for those missed) … and former Nikon supremo John Swainston who also kindly picked me up from the airport. Russ’s spouse Shirley and former News Ltd Chairman and CEO John Hartigan brought … a rarity at a funeral … applause from all for their telling of Russ ‘tales’. Post event ‘tales’ went on at the Great Northern pub that eve.

Yes … it’s too late now to say but … Russ … I owe you … lots … Thanks … the pleasure has been all mine.


Russell McPhedran - Olympic Games 1975