Legislative Council: Thursday, May 05, 2022


Kunmanara Mungkuri OAM

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (15:19): I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister inform the council about the significant contribution of Kunmanara Mungkuri OAM to the South Australian community?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:20): I thank the honourable member for his question. I know particularly but not limited to being a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, his interest in these areas. I am grateful to answer that and for a brief opportunity to pay tribute to the significant contribution of Kunmanara Mungkuri OAM to this state, to his people and to our broader community.

I was fortunate to attend the funeral service of Kunmanara Mungkuri with then opposition leader, the member for Dunstan, Steven Marshall, and we both had an opportunity at Indulkana community on the APY lands to say a few words in honour of the memory of Kunmanara. Kunmanara was born in the bush in 1946 near what is now the Fregon community, growing up living a traditional Anangu existence with his family and siblings. When cattle stations were established nearby at Everard Park—which is now the community of Mimili—and Granite Downs, Kunmanara like many other Anangu men became involved with station work.

He was a skilled rider with an affinity for horses. Kunmanara became a highly regarded stockman working alongside his friends and future Iwantja Arts painting colleagues Alec Baker, Kunmanara Whiskey and others, and covered vast areas of country, droving and mustering cattle. Kunmanara was integral in the APY land rights movement in the early eighties and attended demonstrations and meetings in Adelaide to push for the rights of Anangu ownership of their land.

During the past decade, Kunmanara became a dedicated artist, working daily at Iwantja Arts and the Indulkana community. Kunmanara's paintings detailed his extensive knowledge of country and Anangu culture and reflected his experience as a stockman. Kunmanara's paintings and work on paper have been acquired by cultural institutions and significant collections in Australia and over the world. Kunmanara was the inaugural winner of the Hadley's Art Prize in 2017 for his work Ngura Wiru (meaning 'good country'). He said at the time:

This is my story about that creek at Fregon. I was born there. Back when we lived in the bush, slept in the warm sand and we lived on the bush tucker. That was the place where it all started, that was my home.

In 2018, Kunmanara won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for his work in Ngura (country). The Telstra prizes are recognised generally as the highest prizes for Indigenous art awarded yearly. He said:

This is my drawing about my country. This land is my home, it's where it all started. I've got good knowledge of horses, stockmen and the country. These things, everything, is my memory—my knowledge. I like painting my country, I like to paint the memories of my country.

I have had the very good fortune of spending many hours sitting on the floor with Kunmanara at Iwantja Arts as he has painted his story and helped his culture be passed on to the next generation. In 2021 (last year), Kunmanara was South Australia's nominee for Senior Australian of the Year and received the Medal of the Order of Australia. I was fortunate to attend that ceremony with Kunmanara at Government House last year.

Kunmanara passed away at his home in Indulkana on 1 December 2021. I know Kunmanara's family will miss him dearly: his wife, Maisie King, and his daughter, Ngila Mungkuri. I offer my sincere condolences and respectfully acknowledge Kunmanara's two sons, who predeceased him.

I would like to finish with a quote from Kunmanara. He often spoke to young people about the future and the importance of Ngura (country)and Tjukurpa (culture). Kunmanara was fond of saying, 'Nyangatja culture nyuntu ngula inkama, miri tjutaku culture nyangatja,' (This is our culture, make sure you keep on singing in the future because this here is your ancestors' culture.) I pay tribute to and farewell naguku pumpulpa-ku, Kunmanara Mungkuri.