A tattered Australian flag, salvaged from the tip, has been named the winner of the 2013 Parliament of New South Wales Aboriginal Art Prize, taking out the coveted $40,000 prize ahead of 32 other works exhibited in this year’s finalist group.

Karla Dickens’ January 26, Day of Mourning was announced as the 2013 Prize winner at an awards ceremony held at Parliament House overnight. The work transforms an old Australian flag, which has been embroidered and embellished by the artist.

“The majority of Australia celebrates 26 January by wrapping themselves in the red, white and blue flag, having barbecues and feeling proud to be young and free,” says Dickens. I cringe, stay close to dear friends, do all I can not to leave the house and respectfully hold my grief  “the grief for the old, grief for the continuous denial, grief for the disrespect, grief for the lack of acknowledgement and the poor choice of the day to celebrate. After finding the flag at the tip, I went about hand sewing my grief, with one cross after another. Unfortunately, it’s only a small gesture to reflect the true loss”.

Currently the richest art incentive on offer for Aboriginal artists born or living in New South Wales, the Parliament of New South Wales Aboriginal Prize is made possible through a partnership between the Parliament, Campbelltown Arts, the NSW Government (through Arts NSW), the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW and Coal & Allied. Also linked to the main Prize are some additional artist residencies and scholarships through COFA, with a value of over $120,000.

The Hon. Shelley Hancock MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, opened last night’s proceedings, and noted the Parliament’s commitment to developing Aboriginal art in NSW, via the Prize. “We have been a committed partner in this Prize since day one, and we are proud to be able to continue providing a forum for Aboriginal artists to voice their thoughts and opinions.”

The Hon. Don Harwin MLC, President of the Legislative Council, thanked the judges for their time in selecting this year’s winner. Although the Prize is a partnership between many dedicated organisations, the winner of the Prize is ultimately determined by an independent panel of judges, who we place faith in to select the finalists and winner by virtue of their expertise in Aboriginal arts. “We would like to acknowledge Matt Poll, Vernon Ah Kee and Judith Watson for their involvement in this year’s Prize.”

Also speaking at the ceremony was the Hon. Pru Goward, Minister for Community Services and Women representing the Hon George Souris, Minister for the Arts; Cr Clinton Mead, Mayor of Campbelltown City Council; Ms Cate Sims, Aboriginal Relations Specialist for Coal & Allied and Mr Graham Forsyth, Associate Dean, COFA Creative Learning Unit.

In addition to the main Art Prize, the awards ceremony also encompassed the 2013 COFA Indigenous Professional Development Award, which includes an Artist Residency at COFA; the opportunity to work with COFA staff in a medium of choice; a solo exhibition at EPS Gallery, COFA and up to $500 worth of art materials, travel expenses and per diems. The winner this year was Warwick Keen, for his work Colour barcode (scan me I may be Aboriginal).

The Parliament of New South Wales Aboriginal Art Prize is currently on display at the NSW Parliament on Sydney’s Macquarie Street, and will be until 31st October. Entry to the exhibit is FREE, with doors open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Following the exhibit, the works will commence a tour of selected regional galleries in New South Wales.