About Jennifer Isaacs

Jennifer Isaacs is a prominent Australian writer, art consultant and independent curator. A pioneer in moves to gain respect for Aboriginal culture, she is the author of seminal books on Aboriginal art, religion, plant use, food, medicine and oral history. In 2003 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her work promoting Aboriginal culture and assisting Aboriginal artists.

She has curated numerous exhibitions and collections of Aboriginal art in Australia, the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom (among them the exhibition Spirit Country, which toured the US in 1999-2000 and which has since been shown in China and Japan).

Jennifer is well known as a consultant to government and corporations, as well as to private individuals, and also as a lecturer both at home and abroad (on tour with Spirit Country, she lectured at the prestigious National Geographic Society in Washington DC).

She has been commissioned to produce books by the Aboriginal Arts Board and by indigenous communities. One of the more recent is Saltwater, a record of an extraordinary series of 80 bark paintings by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land, recording the sacred knowledge of their sea country. These paintings are now in the collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

Beginning as a staff member of the Australia Council (the country's peak arts funding body), she travelled extensively through the country from the 1970s onwards, extending her understanding of these remote communities. She has helped develop significant policies in Aboriginal arts, including the principles covering Aboriginal copyright and intellectual property rights.

She has been a keynote speaker at national and international conferences and has tutored in aspects of both indigenous and non-indigenous culture.

In 1994-95, she was commissioned by the Federal Department of the Arts to carry out a feasibility study for an Asian/Indigenous Cultural Festival; in 1995, the Department of Foreign Affairs commissioned a study of Darwin's Cultural Linkages in Asia.

For ATSIC (the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) she produced educational publications on indigenous arts and culture, and she has acted as a consultant to the Department of Environment and Heritage, advising on the protection and restoration of heritage-listed art work.

Jennifer has commissioned, managed and installed Aboriginal art works for new international airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin, and has organised five national exhibitions of Aboriginal women's art.

She has had a lifelong family association with the pioneer potter Thancoupie, whose career she has managed for the last 30 years.

Jennifer Isaacs maintains strong links with remote communities and, as well as writing, offers curatorial/ consultancy services and provides occasional special interest visits to Aboriginal art centres. She is committed to an ethical operation which will benefit the indigenous communities and individuals involved.

Jennifer Isaacs in her Sydney office.
Photo: Greg Weight

"Jennifer has been a keynote speaker at national and international conferences and has tutored in aspects of both indigenous and non-indigenous culture."

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