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50 years since Neville Bonner AO entered Parliament

Thursday, 27 May 2021 in Exhibition

June 11, 2021 marks 50 years since Neville Bonner AO became the first Indigenous Australian to enter the Federal Parliament.

Neville Bonner represented Queensland in the Senate from 1971 to 1983.

Today, the Parliament House Art Collection marks this anniversary with an exhibition to coincide with National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week.

A main feature of the display is the portrait of Neville Bonner, painted in 1979 by artist Wesley Barton Walters, from the Parliament House Historic Memorials Collection.

Neville Bonner was a Jagera man, born in 1922 on Ukerebagh Island on the Tweed coast, in northern New South Wales.

In 1967, Bonner campaigned in the national referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution. He joined the Liberal Party soon afterwards.

Bonner was a highly respected parliamentary figure, known for his principled approach to politics in campaigning on Indigenous issues and the environment.

He described himself as having ‘an all-consuming burning desire to help my own people’. He would later emphasise he tried in his political career ‘to serve all people’.

In 1979, Bonner was named Australian of the Year in recognition of his advocacy for Indigenous rights and in 1984 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. He died in 1999 at the age of 77. The Queensland federal electorate of Bonner is named in his honour.

In conjunction with the Neville Bonner display, Parliament House Visitor Services run free daily Yeribee: Indigenous experiences tours. Parliament House visitors can hear the stories of Indigenous parliamentarians and staff, explore the site history of Parliament House, and gain insights into how Australia’s First Peoples are participating in the nations democratic processes.

The Yeribee Tour is 50 minutes, bookings are essential by calling Visitor Services on 02 6277 5399 or booking online.


Media Director: Lyndal Curtis 0447 078 384

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