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First Nations artist depicts story of Disability Royal Commission

Posted 4 weeks ago by Rebecca St Clair

'Respectful Listening’ shows the journey of the seven Commissioners, carrying a message stick across the country, to collect stories from people with disability. (Source: Supplied)
'Respectful Listening’ shows the journey of the seven Commissioners, carrying a message stick across the country, to collect stories from people with disability. (Source: Supplied)

Wiradjuri Elder and artist Paul Constable Calcott, also known as Uncle Paul, has created a stunning new artwork depicting the story of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. 

Titled ‘Respectful Listening’ the artwork illustrates the journey of the seven Commissioners, carrying a message stick across the country, to collect stories from people with disability, their families and communities.

The artwork shows the different ways the Royal Commission will gather people’s stories, through private sessions, public hearings and informal yarning circles. 

Uncle Paul, who lives with disability, says the colours in the artwork represent the diverse communities across Australia, including the desert, coastal and hinterland regions, as well as the Torres Strait.

“When I was approached to develop an artwork for the Royal Commission, I saw it as a huge honour, and a wonderful opportunity,” he says.

The artist adds that he hopes the artwork encourages people to tell their stories to the Royal Commission. 

“To get to play some small part in this whole process is huge for me and I hope the artwork encourages all Australians with a story to tell about violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, to come forward.

“I have depicted the Royal Commission as a safe place for people to tell their story. That’s why I used the shields, because the shields protect you from harm, and the Royal Commission is somewhere you will be safe and protected to tell your story.”

Chair of the Royal Commission Ronald Sackville AO QC says that the Commissioners are all deeply moved by Uncle Paul’s beautiful depiction of the Royal Commission’s task.

“Uncle Paul has captured the essence of the Commission’s responsibilities more powerfully than mere words.

‘We hope that his wonderful painting will inspire people with disability, particularly First Nations people, to tell us their stories,” adds Commissioner Sackville.

Uncle Paul says the artwork shows First Nations communities that the Royal Commission is culturally safe and that it does want to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Uncle Paul has previously coordinated many local and international exhibitions showcasing artwork by First Nations People with disability.

Last year, he took the ‘Culture is Inclusion’ exhibition to the United Nations Palais De Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Uncle Paul has also worked in the disability sector for nearly four decades. He is the National Training and Resource Development Manager with the First Peoples Disability Network – a peak representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

The Disability Royal Commission has currently halted hearings due to COVID-19 but is still calling for submissions on people’s awareness and understanding of the rights of people with disability.

For the latest updates about how COVID-19 is impacting the disability sector visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page.

What do you think of the artwork? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected]

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