Unfinished Business - Stories from Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with Disabilities

Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum

“Standing Tall” Uncle John. Photographer: Belinda Mason

Stopping at Melbourne Museum on its Australian tour, Unfinished Business reveals stunning threedimensional black and white portraits, film and self-narratives of 30 people with a disability from
Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Presented by Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum, Unfinished Business features photography by award-winning human rights social documentarian Belinda Mason Knierim OAM, videography by Dieter Knierim, and floral installations by Alchemy Orange. Unfinished Business was first shown ten years ago in September 2013 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva and created to coincide with the 24th Session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Supported by the First Peoples Disability Network and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the exhibition was displayed at the World Health Organisation Headquarters in Geneva in 2013 and was a part of Australia’s Social contribution to the United Nations 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Persons in New York.

Developed in collaboration with proud Latja Latja/Narungga man Uncle John Baxter, the exhibition consists of 30 backlit photographic portraits created with lenticular printing to achieve a 3D holographic-like effect. The audience can read the participants stories in their own words, drawing them closer into their gaze and creating a deeply personal connection that transcends the traditional audience-subject divide.

Unfinished Business continues to play an integral role in unveiling the critical issues that affect the participants lives; each of their stories is complex and intertwined with Australia’s political and social history, which has resulted in today’s elevated rates of disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities.

Uncle John was born with Spina-Bifida in Robinvale in Victoria’s North-West and brought down to the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne; being born Aboriginal, he was not returned to his birth family. He was fostered out to a non-Aboriginal family, and only got to meet his sister, brother and father in his late teens.

“This beautiful exhibition drives awareness, education and support for First Peoples with disabilities,” said Museums Victoria Head of First Peoples Experiences, Justice Nelson. “It's about giving these marginalised voices a platform and agency to exposure the injustices and realities they face as a community.”

Writer and polio survivor Gayle Kennedy said that people with disabilities are seldom spoken to directly and their opinions are rarely sought. The best thing about Unfinished Business is that its subjects have agency – they chose how they wanted to be portrayed and provided their own text to accompany the photographs.

“What these people have in common is that they are all extraordinary,” Gayle said. “Some for their achievements, some for sheer dogged persistence in the face of almost unbelievable obstacles, and others for the very fact of their survival against the odds. Their gifts and powers are all part of their DNA, part of their very fabric of their being.”

Complementing the images will be three incredible installations by Alchemy Orange, a First Nations owned and operated business whose work focuses on challenging the preconceived notions of what constitutes floral art by re-contextualising mundane and unconventional materials.

Unfinished Business is on loan from the Australian Museum, proudly supported by event partner – Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Unfinished Business will be on display at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum from Tuesday 5 December until 21 April 2024. Tickets to the exhibition will be included with Melbourne Museum general entry. Entry is free for First Peoples community members.

More information about Unfinished Business

A grey icon of a person
Media and Communications Team
Museums Victoria
[email protected]
0466 622 621

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