‘I would like to show my respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which the project was conceived and realised, and to acknowledge their Elders, past and present. The Unfinished Business project would not exist without the guidance and cultural knowledge of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have contributed to it.’ – Belinda Mason, Photographer
Unfinished Business reveals the stories of 30 First Nations people with lived experience of disability from across Australia. Each participant’s story is complex and intertwined with Australia’s political and social history, which has resulted in today’s high rates of disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities. Through their involvement in the project, each participant’s self-narratives which accompany their portraits contextualise and draw much-needed attention to critical issues that impact on their lives.
Originally launched in September 2013, Unfinished Business was opened at the Palais des Nations in Geneva by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, then Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, and Peter Woolcott, Australia’s then Ambassador to the United Nations. Unfinished Business was displayed to coincide with the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council and the 8th sitting of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The project was supported by the First Peoples Disability Network and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through the Australian Mission in Geneva with the support of was supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In December 2013 the exhibition was displayed at the World Health Organisation Headquarters in Geneva before becoming a part of the Australian Government contribution to the United Nations 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Persons as part of the Australian Government contribution to the event.
The exhibition consists of thirty backlit 3D lenticular photographic portraits of the participants. The 3D lenticular process itself, intensifies the emotion felt by the audience. The desire to reach out and touch the image, invites the audience to transfer the physical desire into an emotional one, and to reach out emotionally to the humanity that entwines us all together. Aiming to reveal the unique essence of each person’s story, the images take the viewer into a new visual realm by presenting these narratives in a more personal, in-depth way. Through the accompanying documentary film and text the audience has the opportunity to hear the participants speak in their own words, which draws them closer, into the still, penetrating gaze of the participants’ faces, forming a close emotional connection and transcending the traditional audience-subject divide. ‘We cannot argue’ says the artist, Belinda Mason, ‘when someone says, ”I feel” – it is not our right. It is part of our own journey to learn empathy rather than compassion. Our own reaction exposes us to ourselves, and our ability to listen when someone lays their naked soul in our path.’
Unfinished Business was acquired through the Cultural Gifts Program by the Australian Museum. To exhibit the work at your gallery, please contact the Australian Museum direct.
BELINDA MASON – Human Rights Social Documentarian
Belinda is second generation Australian and was born on Ngarrindjeri Land, grew up on Kaurna Country and home is Gadigal Country.
Belinda Mason Knierim is a Sydney-based human rights social documentarian whose career commenced at News Ltd in the 1980s. Since 2000, she has conceptualised, produced, and presented high calibre sociocultural engaging multimedia projects for national and international audiences which focus on the topics of sexuality, disability, identity and violence. Belinda collaborates with individuals, governments and organisations to create a focal point for conversations which support social change. On any given day during the past 20 years, one or more of her multimedia exhibitions are on display somewhere in the world, from audiences visiting local community centres to dignitaries attending United Nations events. Belinda has recorded the stories of over a thousand Australians and in doing so has captured the social and political history of Australia’s marginalised communities. Her approach provides a platform for them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment and in an unquestioning way. Belinda has a Bachelor of Communications, Journalism and Creative Writing and a Master of Human Rights with Distinction.
Belinda has published two books which include the portraits and stories of the participants of the Unfinished Business and Breaking Silent Codes projects which have been published with the support of stakeholders including First Peoples Disability Network, Womens Electoral Lobby, City of Sydney, NSW Create and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. These books are held in the collection of the National Library of Australia along with the catalogues from the exhibitions Silent Tears, Taken and Intimate Encounters. Many of these publications have informed various Royal Commissions including the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The projects Unfinished Business, Outing Disability, One Life and Silent Tears all include an app to enable people with learning, sensory and cognitive impairments to access the content of the projects. The short films from Unfinished Business which Belinda directed for Dieter and Liam Knierim were broadcast on NITV during 2013. Belinda also directed the short film Intimate Encounters – 20 years on, for Knierim Productions which was included in the 2018 Sydney Film Festival and is currently being broadcast of ABC iView.
While Belinda’s multimedia exhibitions are her core focus, she also submits her work to significant art prizes. Belinda is the winner of the 2019 Olive Cotton Award for a portrait of an adult survivor of child sexual abuse and The Moran Prize with her photograph titled Four Generations (2008). Her digital photograph from the Beyond the Burn series (2004) was awarded the 2008 Kodak Salon Centre for Contemporary Photography and the Perth Centre for Photography 2008 Iris Award. Her Images from the Maningrida series won her the 2008 Australian Human Rights Commission Award for Photography. She is the winner of the BHP Images of the Outback Award in 2003, 2004, and 2012. Belinda has been a finalist in the following awards: Spider Awards for Photojournalism (3rd) , MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize (2016) DUO (2015) Head On (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008), Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award (2002, 2006, 2012), the Olive Cotton Awards (2007, 2008, 2019), the Iris Award (2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010), The Moran Prize (2012), VIVID (2014 and 2020), The Blake Prize (2009, 2020) and the United Nations Association of Australia Peace Media Awards (2016).