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KWM announces winner of $25k First Nations Art Award

King & Wood Mallesons has announced that Queensland-based artist and founder of an Aboriginal art collective, Richard Bell, has won the firm’s 2023 First Nations Art Award.

user iconNaomi Neilson 22 September 2023 Big Law
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M Bell’s winning work “No Tin Shack” (pictured left), which tells the story of his family being told to leave his childhood home by the Booringa Shire Council health inspector, was selected by King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) out of 28 finalist awards.

Chief executive Renae Lattey said KWM is committed to “building genuine and trusted partnerships” with First Nations people and communities.

“The King & Wood Mallesons First Nations Art Award centres the voices, perspectives and experiences of First Nations artists so they can continue to express their identity, culture, spirituality and relationship to country through art,” Ms Lattey said.


Commenting on “No Tin Shack”, award patron Djon Mundine said that when a child is abused, materially deprived or socially made to feel unimportant, this becomes generational trauma “that is carried in the person’s soul and physical body through successive generations”.

“This year’s KWM winner speaks to two historical emotions, threats that weave the fabric of who we are, and allows us to build our strengths of character and resilience, our humour and our joy in life.

“They are hearth, safe home (removal from), and narrow stereotyping of a sense of personal identity. We First Nations are created by our ancestors, and despite our material poverty, live in intangible riches of spirituality, family love, memories of childhood, strength and sense of self,” Mr Mundine said.

Speaking about his win, Mr Bell said: “Winning an award or prize is a humbling experience, finding ourselves wondering how fortunate we have been to win. We, momentarily, feel sad for those who didn’t win. But, yeah, no, it’s all mine! Thank you very much (a la Elvis)!”

Mr Bell received $25,000, and his work will be displayed in an exhibition with other finalists at the Griffith University Art Museum.

The firm’s Queensland Local Artist Award, valued at $5,000, was awarded to Keemon Williams for his work, “Self Portrait (But I always wanted to be one of the Macho Men)” (pictured right).

Mr Williams said this money would be put back into his art “and empower [him] to do new and ambitious things”.

“There’s a risk in making work, especially personal work, and I’m both honoured and delighted that it culminated in this award,” he said.