Items with a story to tell
Our collection includes a range of items associated with important cultural and political moments, including clothing and footwear connected to historic events or worn to make political statements. These items often gain significance over time because they draw attention to a social movement or a time of change for our nation. Our collection objects encourage Australians from all walks of life to explore our history and engage in conversations about our democracy.
With the donation of Julie Bishop’s shoes, MoAD’s Director Daryl Karp said ‘The recently acquired shoes, worn by Julie Bishop as she announced her resignation, are displayed intentionally with the photograph taken by Fairfax photographer Alex Ellinghausen. This photograph drew attention to the stark contrast of the red shoes against a wall of blue and black suits. It sits alongside a number of objects from significant political figures – from t-shirts to ties and briefcases and badges and much more. Each of these provide a unique insight into the individual and their time. I am delighted that these shoes, which are a symbol of a time in our political history, are now in MoAD’s permanent collection, and encourage visitors to view them at our pop-up display in King’s Hall.’
These are six items from our collection which tell a story, about the wearer, the time and place and our social fabric.
Edmund Barton’s Dress Coat
Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, owned a first class full dress civil uniform which represented many aspects of his life, the power structures of the time, and his role in the machinery of the British Empire. Edmund Barton was entitled to wear this particular uniform because of his membership of the Privy Council and as the most senior minister in the Australian government. Wearing the uniform on special occasions from 1901 to 1905, he would have also worn it at the coronation of King Edward VII in London in 1902.
The Dress Coat is currently on display in the museum in our Dress Code: Empire exhibition.
Elizabeth Wright’s suffragette stockings
The well-worn stockings owned by Yorkshire suffragette Elizabeth Wright, embroidered with the words ‘Votes for women’ and green, white and violet flags is part of a small but important collection of suffragette items held by the museum, also including a suffrage pendant, a souvenir serviette from a suffrage march, and a hunger strike medal.
The stockings would have been worn during the early twentieth century at the height of the marches organised by English women to obtain the vote.
The suffragette stockings can be viewed online in this blog post from 2012.
Quentin Bryce’s yellow dress suit
The yellow dress suit owned by Australia’s first female Governor-General, Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, was worn when she swore in Julia Gillard as Australia’s first female prime minister in 2010. The occasion marked the first time in Australia’s history that female leaders occupied positions at every level of government. Dame Quentin also wore a silk corsage, given to her by her grandmother. Its violet, white and green colours represent the women’s suffrage movement, and Quentin’s support for the movement.
The dress suit and corsage can be viewed online in this blog post from 2014.
Neville Bonner’s RM Williams Boots
An elder of the Jagera people, Neville Bonner became the first Indigenous member of federal parliament in 1971, just nine years after Indigenous Australians received the right to vote. Bonner became a highly respected parliamentary figure during his twelve years as Senator and crossed the floor many times to vote against his own party in order to represent the issues he believed in, particularly those related to Indigenous affairs. Bonner’s R.M. Williams boots, his personalised briefcase, spectacles and multi-coloured tie, all in the MoAD collection, represent his personal style and the era in which he lived and worked.
Neville Bonner’s boots can currently be viewed in our Finders Keepers exhibition.
Richard Di Natale’s rainbow-coloured Converse shoes
One of the most recent additions to the collection, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale’s Converse shoes were donated after he wore them during the passing of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act in December 2017. The shoes were a gift to him from Primrose Holland, the daughter of Uniting Church Reverend Ric Holland, a staunch supporter of marriage equality. Speaking in the Senate, Di Natale said ‘I’m wearing them today for three reasons … as a show of solidarity with people from LGBTIQ communities … to remind us that support for a change to the Marriage Act comes from all corners of the Australian community, including from faith communities. And I wear them to take inspiration from the change that we’re creating with our LGBTIQ communities, to go on and work harder and continue to pound the pavement for equality and justice with other communities that experience discrimination.’
These shoes are currently on display in our Democracy. Are You In? exhibition.
Tim Fischer’s tie collection
Former National Party leader and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer kept every tie he has ever owned, and has donated 171 of them to MoAD. Spanning 1951 to 2011, Fischer’s ties symbolise stages of his life including his schooling, Army officer training and Vietnam service, time serving in state and federal parliament, and later as the first resident Australian Ambassador to the Holy See in Rome. ‘I used ties… to show there was more to me than a farming background’ he explained. The collection includes numerous ties gifted by rural and regional shire councils: from Cooloola and Narrabri to Sale and Alice Springs, symbolic of his wide-ranging interests and commitment to regional Australia.
Tim’s ties are currently on display in our Finders Keepers exhibition.
Can you think of another clothing or footwear item that encapsulates a moment or movement in our political history? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below.