Always Was, Always Will Be. Op-ed by Thea Perkins

Thea Perkins standing in front of clouds background. Credit: Lille Madden.

Thea Perkins standing in front of clouds background. Credit: Lille Madden.

To celebrate NAIDOC Week 2020, Create NSW asked four talented NSW artists and screen practitioners to share with us their response to the question: What does the 2020 NAIDOC theme mean to you – personally and/or professionally?

Thea Perkins

I think that voice is really important. I want to make art that informs, that changes minds, that shifts attitudes because representation is important; First Nations voices matter. For me, the medium that I choose to work with is such an amazing tool to have these political discussions.

Our existence as First Nations peoples is inherently political because of the structures that try to define our culture. Our Art is our power and the voice of our people. It’s the thing that connects us all as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Systems were put in place to divide us, but it was our culture through our art that kept our culture strong. Look at our songlines. They show the history of our connectedness through art. This is powerful and it’s beautiful.

Our culture starts at one place, its small but it travels it grows. It demonstrates that this power and connection through art will be the tool to have our voices be heard and to be seen. We did this for millennia and we’re doing again now as through the younger generations creating and making through online spaces. As an artist this is so exciting, I am continuing skills passed down to me and creating something beautiful to transmit and communicate like those who have come before me. I think this is what ‘Always was and always will be’ means as an artist practicing today.



Thea Anamara Perkins is an Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman.

Raised and based in Sydney, she has family ties to the Redfern community and engages with the area through her painting and installation practice. In 2018 she was a lead artist participating in the restoration of the iconic 40,000 Years mural in Redfern.

She has held solo exhibitions at FirstDraft gallery and Our Neon Foe, as well as exhibiting at TARNANTHI.

Thea was a finalist in the Archibald Prize for her portrait of contemporary Aboriginal artist Christian Thompson. She was also a finalist for the Brett Whitely travelling scholarship.

Thea won the 2020 Alice Prize with her painting ‘Tent Embassy’. She was the recipient of the Australia Council’s Dreaming Award for Emerging First Nations Artists and also a finalist again in the Archibald for her portrait of ‘Poppy Chicka’ (Charles Madden).

She is a resident artist at the Clothing Store in Carriageworks and a Firstdraft Director.

Hear from Ian RT Colless, Aaliyah Bradbury, and Majhid Heath now.

Image: Thea Perkins standing in front of clouds background. Credit: Lille Madden.

Published: 11 November 2020