Vernon Ah Kee on Kevin Gilbert

Kevin Gilbert (10th July 1933 - 1 April 1993)

What we know for sure, Because a White Man’ll Never Do It is an iconic book, Colonising Species an iconic artwork, Kill the Legend is an iconic poem, Cherry Pickers is an iconic play, Kevin Gilbert is responsible for iconic works in four disciplines. That is Kevin Gilbert. They’re iconic because he did them before anyone else did anything like it. He came along at least four decades before his time. - Vernon Ah Kee on Kevin Gilbert

2013, marks the 80th anniversary of his birth and the 20th anniversary of the passing of Aboriginal poet, playwright, visual artist, activist, and community leader, Kevin Gilbert.
Born in Condobolin, New South Wales of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi people, he spent his early years as a seasonal worker. Married with 2 children tragedy happens and Kevin spends over 14 years in Australia's toughest jails. During this period he educated himself, and began his decades long journey to become groundbreaking and award winning artist.

His first published written work was the play The Cherry Pickers (1968). His first artwork was exhibited in 1970. In 1973, his book Because a White Man’ll Never Do It was published, and in 1978 his second book Living Black, won the National Book Council Award. In 1995 he won the RAKA award, and he was shortlisted for the 1995 Australian Multicultural Award.

His contribution to community was just as significant. He played a significant role in the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. He was Chairperson of the Treaty ‘88 campaign. In 1988, he was awarded the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Human Right’s Award for Literature which he returned in protest about the for the way that Aboriginal people were still being treated.

By honouring his life and work, we can ensure that the legacy and significance of Kevin Gilbert will grow well into the next century.