The winner of the first Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award has been announced as Dunghutti artist and elder Gus Kelly with his work ‘Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These..’ depicting the impact of colonisation throughout history to the present day.


On the topic of his work, Gus Kelly stated “This is our story – our Black History. The first bar starts at the beginning – when we roamed our Country from the mountains to the sea with no obstacles. The second bar shows the coming of the Europeans in their tall ships … The third bar is when they returned – this time to stay. The fourth bar is the squatters and homesteaders who just took our land and moved us onto missions.”


“The fifth bar shows the Europeans wanting more…This is when the massacres began, killing us and moving onto our land. The sixth bar? They put us on missions and give us food rations. If they decided we weren’t looking after our children, they took them away …The seventh bar is the tent embassy, the referendum, land rights, black deaths in custody; the beginning of the protests…The eighth bar is all the unmarked graves – too numerous to count – from the colonial massacres up to the present-day deaths. But we were here, and we are still here. Always was and always will be.”


The Bundjalung Art Award was taken out by Bundalung artists Kylie Caldwell for her digital work ‘Mrs & Mr Watcher’, imagining what her ancestors would think of our modern, screen-obsessed world. 


The Innovation Art Award was won by Githabul artist Luke Close for his painting ‘My Journey’ depicting the country he is connected to through family lines and totemic native animals including brush turkey, goanna, sea turtle and willy wagtail.


The Youth Art Award (open to Indigenous artists nationally from 12 to 24 years of age) was won by Djiru and Bundjalung artist Jahvis Loveday for his short film work ‘Bama’ using real captured footage of his brother and family to tell the story of a young Aboriginal boy reflecting on his fear of losing the magic of family and community after moving to the city. 


Special commendations were noted of Trawlwoolway and Palawa artist Louise Daniels for her painting ‘In the Forest of the Giant Myrtle’,  Yiman, Gangalu and Gurreng Gurreng artist Anthony Walker for his painting ‘The Pass’ and Edwinea Paulson for her painting ‘The Sleeping Warrior’.


The Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021 exhibition is on display at Lismore Regional Gallery from Saturday 4 December 2021 to 30 January, 2022.


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