Bonner bark donated to MoAD

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A bark painting depicting the life story of the late politician Neville Bonner has today been donated to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Bark painting depicting Neville Bonner's life by artist Bill Congoo. Photographer Stefan Postles
Bark painting depicting Neville Bonner’s life by artist Bill Congoo. Photographer Stefan Postles

Alfred, the son of Neville, the first Indigenous Australian to become a member of the Parliament of Australia, was on hand today for the handover in the old Senate Chamber with Narelle Anderson, Bonner’s great niece, Daryl Karp, the director of MoAD Parliament House and Libby Stewart, Senior Historian at the museum.

The bark painting by Palm Island artist Bill Congoo, which covers Neville’s birth on an island in northern NSW right through to his increasing interaction with white Australia through politics, and finally his parliamentary career in Canberra, was created in the 1970s and given to Neville on one of his many visits to Palm Island after he entered the Senate in 1971. It was something that he treasured and owned for the rest of his life until shortly before his death, when he passed it onto Alfred.

Bonner’s long career also saw him serve as a member of the ABC board of directors during the Hawke government, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Senior Official Visitor for Queensland Prisons and as head of the Indigenous Advisory Council-the peak body advising the Queensland Government. The suburb of Bonner in Canberra bears his name.

MoAD staff say the bark will be a significant addition to an already remarkable collection of objects held by the Museum that belonged to Neville Bonner, allowing for a more detailed story of his life to be told to generations of visitors.

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