A very Green collection
Christine Milne is well known to most Australians: the immediate past leader of the Australian Greens was, and still is, a fierce warrior for the environment, and one of the country’s few female party leaders. Her succession as Greens leader following the retirement of Bob Brown in 2012, and her subsequent retirement in 2015, were widely reported in the media. Hers has been a long and active career as a passionate advocate for the environment.
What is less well known is Christine’s self-proclaimed career as Greens party historian and archivist. Just prior to her retirement in mid-2015 it was reported that the floor of Christine’s lounge room was ‘covered in knee-high stacks of paper’ which included letters, campaign material, parliamentary paperwork, and political t-shirts. Her early career as a history teacher left her with a deep sense of history and an appreciation of the need to preserve artefacts as a way of telling stories.
When I received a call from Christine’s Parliament House office in mid-2015 asking if the museum would be interested in some of her items I jumped at the opportunity to see what she still had. Not knowing of her bowerbird habits I was amazed at the range, depth and significance of the items she was offering. As a result, the museum now holds over 100 items that, taken together, tell a remarkable story of Christine’s long, varied and interesting career.
Although the collection is wide and eclectic – papers, journals, t-shirts, tea towels, presentation plaques, badges and lanyards, posters and election paraphernalia – for me the highlight is undoubtedly the ‘Aboriginal deaths in custody’ suit. This remarkable ensemble has a unique story: its fabric was made by Tasmanian textile artist Robyn Glade-Wright in 1992 as a response to the Aboriginal deaths in custody Royal Commission. It features the faces of aboriginal people, white judges in judicial wigs, dark vertical lines for prison bars, and the colours of spilled blood. Christine Milne saw the fabric when she launched an exhibition in Hobart in which it featured. She bought a length of it and had it made into a suit, which she subsequently wore in both the Tasmanian and federal parliaments. Christine says ‘I always felt empowered wearing that suit and thought it a powerful statement of my support for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’
Although each and every item in the Christine Milne collection has a fascinating story, here we feature just six objects to show something of the range of subjects that it covers. We are delighted to have this addition to the museum’s collections, and hope to display some or all of it in the near future.