Photograph of Barbara McGrady standing in front of text and a photo of Badde Manors cafe in Glebe which is part of her exhibition at the Chau Chak Wing Museum

Thirty years of Indigenous history captured on film

29 November 2023
Alumna Barbara McGrady's photographic career celebrated
The recent history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Sydney is chronicled in a new, free, photographic exhibition at the University of Sydney's Chau Chak Wing Museum.

Australia has a Black History is a retrospective of Gomeroi/Gamilaraay photographer Barbara McGrady, whose work captures more than 30 years of significant social, political and historical moments for Aboriginal people in Sydney. The exhibition includes images of Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, Ash Barty receiving a Dreamtime Award in 2017, the Koori Knockout and the premier of The Sapphires movie.  

Now residing in Gadigal country in Glebe, McGrady has long held an interest in sport but her photographic archive is also a unique historical repository of the protests and social gatherings in and around Redfern.

McGrady’s love of photography began in her teen years, when her mother gave her a camera. The gift sparked a career in photojournalism which saw McGrady, an alumna from the University of Sydney, develop expertise in elite sports photojournalism. She received the Anthony Mundine Award for Courage in the inaugural National Indigenous Human Rights Awards (2014). In 2015, she was awarded the photo-media award in the Solid Screen International Award for Indigenous Women in Film and Photography. 

“Barbara is one of Australia’s most important documentary photographers,” said Chau Chak Wing Museum Director Michael Dagostino. “In the course of a long career, she has offered a unique perspective on events that have empowered her communities and defined Redfern, and NSW, as a place of resistance and compassion.”

“The chosen works for Barbara McGrady: Australia Has a Black History fall into three categories: sport, activism, and community,” said exhibition curator Lily Thomas-McKnight, a Wiradjuri and Gomeroi woman who is also archiving McGrady’s vast collection of work. “The photographs in each category for the show overlap and interconnect with each other, indicating the significance of community for First Nations peoples.” 

A photograph of three women at a black lives matter protest. The woman in the middle holds a placard featuring images of Aboriginal people

BLM protest rally, Martin Place, 2014, Image courtesy of the artist, © Barbara McGrady

Australia Has a Black History sits along two other free photography exhibitions at the Chau Chak Wing Museum. Photography and the Performative is on until August 2024 and The Staged Photograph will stay on show for the duration of 2024.

Australia Has a Black History will also be on display when the Chau Chak Wing Museum features in next year’s Biennale of Sydney (the exhibition is not part of the Biennale). McGrady is a previous Biennale artist, featuring in the 2020 event.

Event details

What: Barbara McGrady: Australia has a Black History

Where: Level 4 Mezzanine, Chau Chak Wing Museum, University Place, University of Sydney, Camperdown

When: from 23 November 2023 until 4 August 2024

Opening hours: 10am-5pm, Monday to Friday (until 9pm on Thursday); 12-4pm weekends; closed on public holidays and during the University’s shutdown (23 December-7 January). 

Cost: Free

Jocelyn Prasad

Media and Public Relations Advisor

Related articles