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Wadeye Youth 

Wadeye (also known as Port Keats) is an Aboriginal community located in the northwestern corner of the Northern Territory, roughly 400kms from Darwin. It is the largest, isolated Aboriginal community in Australia with 3000 people, a third of whom are school age.

Wadeye was founded as a Roman Catholic mission in 1935, which brought together many groups into one area. There are 20 land-owning groups mainly speaking the language of Murrinhpatha, although there are seven different languages spoken by the different clans in Wadeye. The community is cut off by flooding every year, often for up to five months and in recent years, the community has been troubled by gang violence, poverty and housing shortages. 

I began my association with the community as a child because my uncle worked in the community for over 40 years. Now I go there every couple of years. As a documentary photographer I hope to give a voice and face to this isolated community. Wadeye people are attractive, strong and resilient as these images show. 

This series of work was made in the main street of Wadeye, outside the shopping centre at the bus stop, even though there is no bus. The portraits are of young people because they make up the majority of the community.  They are also the future of Wadeye and of our country.

Cathy is an artist living and working in Canberra. She has exhibited both in Australia and overseas and is interested in documentary photography as well as photographing places that are charged with their own history. Historically, one of photography’s primary functions has been to document sites where significant, often traumatic events have taken place.  In Cathy’s work this has included both interior and anterior locations.

For the last four years she has worked on a series titled Please Be Careful, photographing sites in Australia with known histories of trauma such as Cheviot Beach, Belanglo State Forest and Barrow Creek. Amongst other projects, Cathy has photographed in Wadeye in the Northern Territory for the last 15 years.

Cathy’s work is held in public collections in Australia and Japan and she has received numerous grants to support her work. She has been selected as a finalist for various national prizes including the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Portrait Prize which she also won in 2000.

Cathy lectures in the Photomedia Department at the Australian National University’s School of Art. She holds a Masters Degree in Fine Art.

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

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Image detail: Gary Ramage