Global Cultures

Jenny Munro

June 2016

Aboriginal Housing Rights Activist

A true leader for her people, Jenny Munro has achieved significant breakthroughs in her fight for aboriginal rights. In a continued effort to celebrate the inspirational people and the communities of New South Wales, ANZ bank has commissioned artist Adnate to paint a ten storey tall mural of Jenny Munro, a stone’s throw from the Redfern Tent Embassy she started. This is part of a series of portraits that will appear across Sydney in the run up to this year’s Archibald Prize, of which ANZ is principal sponsor. 

JENNY MUNRO

Founder of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro has been fighting for Aboriginal housing rights for more than four decades.

Born in 1956, Jenny’s childhood was spent at Erambie Mission, an Aboriginal community on the outskirts of Kowra. “[It was] one of the biggest populations of Aboriginal people in the country. It was a haven for our people…a refuge from a wider racist society, our little piece of the world,” says Jenny.

Motivated by her drive to defend the sovereignty of Aboriginal people and to right the wrongs of criminal injustice towards Aboriginal Australians, Jenny completed an Arts Law Degree at Sydney University.

“I grew up with hope. I still maintain hope for our young people.”

In 2014 Jenny Munro began the Redfern Tent Embassy to protest the establishment of a commercial precinct on the area known as ‘The Block’ in Redfern, Sydney. After more than 400 days of occupation, the Redfern Tent Embassy declared a victory, with $5 million committed by the Australian Government to guarantee the construction of low cost housing for poor Aboriginal people.

Jenny Munro continues to fight for Aboriginal rights and sovereignty, motivated by what she sees as a system that continues to oppress Aboriginal Australians. Jenny says “the system has removed hope for our children, I grew up with hope, and I still maintain hope for our young people, but the system doesn’t give it to them, that’s why we have an epidemic of suicide in our young people, everyone needs hope to cling on to.”

 

Adnate

Matt Adnate is one of street art's most influential big wall painters. His works portraying indigenous children have captivated viewers around the world. Adnate strongly believes in giving back to the communities to which his subjects belong.

Beyond deepening his own understanding of Aboriginal culture, Adnate hopes that his art might trigger greater public engagement with indigenous issues. “When I first started painting Australian indigenous culture, it was a life changer for me.”

Growing up as a graffiti writer has given Adnate a strong understanding of the power of street art, and he is keenly aware of the potential impact of this portrait, given its size and location. “People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for billboards in CBD locations. To have a large-scale portrait of someone like Jenny Munro in the city, it’s going to push the awareness of the struggle of Aboriginal culture and the Aboriginal people today.”

“I spend just as much time on the eyes as the rest of the whole painting.”

THE PROCESS

One of the most captivating aspects of any Adnate portrait are the eyes. Speaking to him about his process, it’s easy to understand why. “I spend just as much time on the eyes as the rest of the whole painting. I make sure they have lot of detail and a lot of power in them because I want them to communicate.”

#InspiringLocals: Jenny Munro Timelapse

Watch Adnate at work painting a larger than life street portrait of the inspiring Jenny Munro in Haymarket, Sydney.

He reasons, “If you’re not looking into someone’s eyes, you’re not really communicating with them properly.”

The eyes hold special significance in his Aboriginal portraits. “I often paint landscapes in the eyes. Sometimes the landscape is a reflection of what’s directly opposite the mural. But with Aboriginal people, I sometimes paint a reflection of what was there. It pushes an important message of what was taken from them.”

Even though he doesn’t like to be called an ‘activist’, he likes the power street art has to influence people. “I hope maybe through my work, it’s changed at least one person.”

ANZ in the community

ANZ is taking action to improve understanding, financial capability, and inclusion of Aboriginal Australians.  Through its Indigenous Action Plan, ANZ has made a formal commitment to the financial and social well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The plan includes initiatives like the ANZ Graduate Program and the ANZ Indigenous Cadet Program.