Having been involved for many years with the presentation and promotion of Australian indigenous art overseas, I was delighted by the decision of the Government of Queensland, in 2009, to establish a new Art Fair, designed to showcase Queensland's exceptionally rich indigenous art and culture - and to base the Fair in the enticingly beautiful tropical location of Cairns, in Far North Queensland.

I was equally delighted - and greatly honoured - to be invited to be Co-Patron of the Fair, with distinguished indigenous artist, Tapich Gloria Fletcher James AO, until her death earlier this year. Together, we nurtured and encouraged its development and watched with pride its growth, in just three short years, to claim a place as an event of significance in the art world, drawing increasing interest from across Australia and internationally. 

In just three years, the Fair has given more than 33,500 Australian and overseas visitors the opportunity to experience the quality and authenticity of the work produced by both established and emerging indigenous artists from Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities - and to gain a greater appreciation of the strikingly different cultures they represent.

There are many Art Fairs from which to choose, but the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair offers truly exciting opportunities for exhibitors and collectors alike. In addition to the works on display and available for purchase, presented by both commercial art galleries and Indigenous Art Centres across regional Queensland, the Fair features a host of other activities - cultural performances, workshops, symposia, presentations by both emerging and established artists, a Children and Families program and other events designed to make participation a thoroughly rich and rewarding - indeed, an unforgettable experience.

For anyone with an interest in indigenous art, whether personal or professional - and interested to know more about the distinctive indigenous cultures of Queensland, the CIAF is not to be missed. As Patron, I am looking forward greatly to the Fourth Fair, in August 2012 and to welcoming gallery owners and directors, collectors, artists and art lovers from around the world to share the experience. 

To view Her Excellency's full biography, click here

To read Her Excellency's CIAF speeches, please follow the links below:
2010 Governor's Luncheon speech  
2011 Governor's Luncheon speech 
2011 Governor's Tribute to Dr Tapich Gloria Fletcher James




 Image: Her Excellency at CIAF 2011 Governor's Luncheon

Ms Henrietta Fourmile-Marrie 

 Henrietta Fourmile Marrie, a Gimuy Walabura Yidinji person, and direct descendant of Ye-i-nie, Leader and Tribal Warrior of Cairns, was born in Yarrabah south-east of Cairns.  She has worked for many years as an academic with over 35 publications to her credit on issues relating to the protection of Indigenous cultural heritage, intellectual property philanthropy, economic development, the bushfood industry, and access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing. She has served on a number of government committees and inquiries, and acted as a consultant to government bodies including Environment Australia, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Wet Tropics Management Agency.  In 1997 she became the first Indigenous Australian to gain a senior position with a United Nations agency, serving with the UN Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity, based in Montreal, Canada for 6 years.  In September 2003 she accepted a position as Program Manager for North Australia with The Christensen Fund, a California-based private philanthropic body which makes grants to indigenous and local communities in a number of regions around the world.  Henrietta has now accepted a position as Senior Research Fellow with the United Nations University-Institute of Advance Studies.

Through Henrietta, The Christensen Fund has made over $25 million in grants to support Indigenous initiatives in Australia, which include grants to support some of Indigenous Australia's leading events such as the Dreaming and Garma festivals.

She has also made grants to support local indigenous artists and exhibitions, environmental management, and recording of traditional knowledge and languages. Henrietta is also working to formally establish the United Nations University Institute for Traditional Knowledge in northern Australia. From 2005 to 2009 Henrietta co-chaired Philanthropy Australia's Indigenous Affinity Group. She continues to keep a close connection with her traditional Gimuy-Walabura clan country, the area south of the Barron River on which the City of Cairns now stands.

Henrietta has a Masters Degree in Environmental and Local Government Law from Macquarie University, as well as teaching qualifications and a Post-graduate Diploma in Arts (Indigenous Studies) from the University of South Australia.

Henrietta is the 2011 recipient of the inaugural Lisa Watson Black Woman Strong Award and is Co-patron of the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair with Her Excellency Ms. Penelope Wensley AC, Governor of Queensland.


Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Artistic Director Avril Quaill said the passing of Elder, artist and stateswomen Tapich Gloria Fletcher AO was a sad day for the Australian arts community.

"I and many Indigenous artists of my generation were deeply inspired by her not only by her art, but by her courage and great joy of life," Ms Quaill. "She continued to be an inspiration for younger generations through her educational courses on traditional culture and her commitment to pass on respected traditions and intimate environmental knowledge through dance, storytelling and art.

"In keeping with tradition, there will be a restriction on the speaking of her Aboriginal name, which translated, means flower of the wattle.

"We were incredibly honoured to have Tapich Gloria Fletcher as a patron for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in 2009 and 2010. Her presence at both these events made a huge difference for everyone."

In the 1970s, while still under the jurisdiction of the Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act, Tapich Gloria Fletcher was one of the first Aboriginal artists to travel from her ancestral country, a very remote community near Weipa, to enrol at, East Sydney Technical College.  

"She then went on to become totally engaged in the arts through advocacy and through her own work as a ceramicist," said Ms Quaill. "Indeed she is one of Australia's most awarded artists." 

Establishing a pottery at Trinity Beach north of Cairns, Tapich Gloria Fletcher travelled extensively in Australia and abroad including Mexico, Canada and the USA.  She conducted regular art workshops and community camps for children visiting her ancestral lands, near Weipa in Cape York, teaching about her dearly loved country.

In later years she worked tirelessly with her agent to complete a dictionary of her beloved Thaynakwith language.

"Her major public art sculptures were recently unveiled at the entrance to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and in Queensland at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal," Ms Quaill said.

Tapich Gloria Fletcher was awarded an Order of Australia in 2005 and named a Queensland Great in 2008, acknowledging the significant role she played in the history and development of Queensland.

Ms Quaill said Tapich Gloria Fletcher's memory will be cherished with the 2011 Cairns Indigenous Art Fair an opportunity to continue her commitment to the sharing of culture.

"It is apt that the 2011 event will be held at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal, the location for one of her contemporary works in public sculpture, the magical bronze sphere, lyndhik the moon and wini'henh the star, The Lovers."

Tapich Gloria Fletcher was born in Napranum, near Weipa on the Western Cape York Peninsula, in 1937.