WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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19 July 2021 // Dr Fiona Foley

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Dr Fiona Foley (1964 - ) was born in Maryborough in and raised in nearby Hervey Bay and (briefly) Mount Isa. Foley attended high school in Sydney with her siblings, and then attained a Certificate of Arts from East Sydney Technical College in 1983.

 

She was one of the first Indigenous students to attend the Sydney College of the ArtsSydney University completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1986. The following year she completed a Diploma of Education at Sydney University.

Foley's mother, Shirley Foley, was born in Urangan and was a member of the Wondunna clan of the Badtjala people who are indigenous to Thoorgine (Fraser Island). In 1988, Shirley Foley established the Thoorgine Educational and Culture Centre on the island. She spent twenty years researching and recording Badtjala language and culture, culminating in the publication of a Badtjala/English dictionary. Her mother's cultural pride and high regard for education have influenced Foley throughout her career. 

 

Since 1985, Foley has had significant engagement with Indigenous communities in central Australia, and the Northern Territory most notably Maningrida  and Ramingining in Arnhem Land. Foley and her mother visited Maningrida in 1992, facilitating a cultural exchange between locals and Badtjala people. Before this, Foley lived and worked in Ramingining for several months.  These trips greatly informed her practice, provided further insights into Aboriginal culture, and inspired her to be a cultural leader. In 1995, Foley permanently moved back to Hervey Bay to be with family and take part in Native Title negotiations regarding a portion of Fraser Island. As of 2014, this claim has been successful.

In 2017 Foley completed a Doctorate of Philosophy. Her research focused on The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, 1897. A number of her artworks have referenced this act and its effect on the Badtjala people.

Foley is regarded for her activity as an academic, cultural and community leader and for co-founding the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative.  Her practice encompasses many media including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, textiles and installation.  Her work addresses contemporary political issues facing Indigenous Australians and is held in the public collections of many Australian state, national and university collections including the Cruthers Collection of Women's Art as well as the British Museum. Foley's work has toured internationally and featured in several major exhibitions including Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum and Aboriginal Art in Modern Worlds at Russia's Hermitage Museum.

Foley is represented by Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.

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