Jon Ford

Jon Ford

Minister for Employment Protection; Regional Development; Fisheries; the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne

    A policeman's eye on colonial Darwin

    14/07/2005 12:00 AM

    The Policeman’s Eye is a remarkable exhibition of rare Aboriginal artefacts and photographs taken more than 120 years ago by the Northern Territory’s first chief of police.

    Acting Culture and the Arts Minister Jon Ford has opened an exhibition at the Western Australian Museum, which for the first time brings together the pioneering works of Paul Foelsche.

    “Foelsche’s original glass negatives barely survived an 1897 cyclone that devastated Palmerston, as Darwin was then known, and his work offers a unique insight into colonial Australian life and its impact on indigenous people,” Mr Ford said.

    Other photographers visited Palmerston, but none produced such a complete record of the Top End, its people, early buildings, industries and landscapes.

    Foelsche was 23 years old when he became one of the many 19th century Germans who travelled to South Australia.

    During his years in the Territory, he carefully and sensitively photographed more than 250 members of the Larrakia, Woolna (Djerimanga) and Iwaidja people.

    After trying his luck on the gold diggings, Foelsche joined the South Australian mounted police and was chosen to lead the first police contingent to the Northern Territory.

    At the request of international exhibitors during the 1870s, he began taking pictures of Aboriginal people as well as Palmerston’s buildings and streets.

    “Foelsche made significant contributions to the fields of anthropology - as a collector and recorder of objects, vocabularies and customs - and to natural history as a zoological and botanical collector, “ Mr Ford said.

    “But it is his photographic work that earns him a place in Australian cultural history.”

    The Policeman’s Eye has been curated by Dr Philip Jones of the South Australian Museum and Tim Smith of the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with indigenous communities.

    Mr Ford said the Gallop Government was committed to supporting the arts and enhancing Western Australia’s unique lifestyle.

    Minister's office: 9213 6900