Tony Albert

Full name:
Tony Albert
Born:
Townsville
Qld
Australia
Occupation:
Art student, Artist
Education:
Bachelor of Visual Arts, Queensland College of Art
Highest rank:
Official War Artist
Enlistment:
Decorations/ commendations:
Conflict:
N/A
Military event:
Unit:
N/A

Early life

Tony Albert was born in Townsville, Queensland, in 1981. His family comes from Cardwell and he's a descendant of the Girramay, Yidinji and Kuku-Yalanji peoples.

In 2004, Albert graduated from the Queensland College of Art at Griffith University with a degree in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art.

Albert's grandfather Eddie Albert served in World War II. Eddie's wartime experiences were a source of inspiration for Albert.

Eddie enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1940. As a member of the 2/15th Australian Infantry Battalion, Eddie served in the Middle East before becoming a prisoner of war (POW). He was held in Italian and German POW camps until the end of the war. There's archival film footage of Eddie returning to Australia.

Role as an official war artist

In 2012, Albert became the first Aboriginal Australian to be appointed as an official war artist. He was attached to the Army's Regional Surveillance Force North West Mobile Unit (NORFORCE).

First Nations peoples make up half of NORFORCE. They are mostly recruited from the area they patrol to draw on local knowledge.

4 men sitting cross-legged on a concrete patio outside an iron-clad building, wearing green camouflage uniforms showing Australian flags, 2 with hats and all with faces painted green, with disassembled guns laid out in front of them

Informal portrait of Neil Hodgson, Benjamin Gurruwiwi, Sebastian Guyula and Moses Wanambi, new recruits of the Regional Surveillance Unit North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), Northern Territory, May 2012. Photographed by official war artist Tony Albert. AWM P11437.006

As an official war artist, Albert was documenting the relationship between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and First Australians. His artwork acknowledged the ongoing role of Indigenous communities in the defence of Australia.

As part of his service experience, Albert trained in weapon handling, navigation, first aid, basic drill and signalling.

The Australian War Memorial holds many of Albert's NORFORCE photographs.

Albert also created a recruitment poster for NORFORCE. The word 'deadly' resonates with many people in Indigenous communities as something that is good or amazing. Albert created the poster as a tribute to the young army recruits he worked alongside.

I saw the recruits as everyday superheroes, they had this incredible power ... they wanted to stand up in their communities and be proud and strong.

[Tony Albert, March 2013, Be Deadly - NORFORCE, Australian War Memorial]

Painting depicting 3 smiling cartoon faces peer through a circle of military and Australian imagery on a poster that reads 'Be Deadly NORFORCE' with the words 'North', 'East', 'West' and 'South' in the corners.

Be Deadly - NORFORCE, by Tony Albert, 2012-2013: acrylic, collage elements and mixed media print with silver leaf on paper, 140 x 100 cm. This poster by Tony Albert was created to encourage First Australians to enlist in NORFORCE, a modern Australian military unit in Northern Australia. Albert's design is an energetic tribute to the young recruits. AWM ART94987

Albert's artworks include drawings, painting, photography and installation. He explores the issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. In 2013, he painted a four panelled artwork, Coloured Diggers.

This 4-panelled comic strip painting explores the social and political legacies of Indigenous military service during the Second World War, and specifically, the lack of recognition felt by many veterans following their repatriation. Tony Albert, 2013, Sydney, New South Wales. AWM ART96531

This artwork highlights past injustices of Indigenous military service. Many First Nations peoples who served in World War II felt a lack of recognition following their repatriation. Again, Albert uses the word 'deadly' to convey his message:

As Indigenous soldiers they faced a deadly mission, their warrior skills made them deadly to their enemy, and their courage and strength in the face of adversity makes them “deadly” to us.

[Coloured Diggers, Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2091841]

Recognition of his work

Albert continues to create powerful artworks and has received many awards. He exhibits in major museums and private collections throughout the world.

In 2014, Albert won the Basil Sellers Art Prize and the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. In 2015, he was given a residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York.

The City of Sydney commissioned Albert to create a memorial in Hyde Park. He unveiled his work, Yininmadyemi - Thou didst let fall, in 2015. Inspired by his grandfather's service in World War II, the memorial honours the military service of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women.

Albert was also awarded the 2016 Fleurieu Art Prize for his installation, The Hand You’re Dealt.

He is a member of the Art Gallery of NSW Trust, helping to judge the Archibald Prize, and a member of the gallery's Indigenous Advisory Group.


Last updated: 27 May 2022

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2022), Tony Albert, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 4 October 2022, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/biographies/tony-albert
Was this page helpful?