Life On The Job

Indigenous Famous Person's Story

Tracey Moffatt, OA, Photographer and Film Maker (12 November 1960 - )

Tracey Moffatt
(Source: Cooks Hill Galleries)


Moffatt was born in Brisbane to an Aboriginal mother, Dauphine Moffatt. She never knew her father and after Dauphine’s fourth child was born and she found she could no longer care for them, so the children were fostered out to friends of the family, who happened to be a poor white family living at Mount Gravatt East. Her birth mother visited regularly and Moffatt says that she knew very early that she and her siblings were different to the other kids. (Source:

Tracey Moffat is an indigenous woman, born in 1960 in Brisbane, but now calls New York and Sydney home. [After 12 years in New York, Moffatt returned to Australia in 2010 and has since divided her time between a flat in Sydney’s McMahon’s Point and a Gabrielle Pool designed house near Noosa. (Source:] She is a well renown photographer and occasional film maker whose work has captivated audiences all over the world.

Her photographs often reference the history of art and photography, as well as her own childhood memories and fantasies, exploring issues of race, gender, sexuality and identity.”

Her works will often focus on the indigenous people of Australia and the way they are understood in social and cultural terms. Her most work is a photographic series called Something More, which was first shown in 1989. (Source: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia)

In Gallery


In 1989 Tracey created series Something More which has gone on to become her most well-known work. Tracey’s Something More is often referred to as a haunting series as the story it tells resonates with her audience. “Moffatt's works are unified by a cold and manipulative air, cryptically toying with malice and psychological damage. The artistic spirit is remote, elusive, stylishly uncontactable.” Each of Tracey’s works tells a story or theme which aims to evoke emotion from the viewer. Tracey often bases her work on Australian or world histories such as Indigenous rights and Refugee stories.

In her art Tracey Moffatt draws on her background as an Aboriginal child growing up in Brisbane in a foster family which included her sister, and as a highly receptive child of the sixties, avidly consuming images from magazines, films and television. Her education was not of the old sense, a carefully planned sequence of acquired skills and knowledge; it was, through the media that fascinated her, random and emotional - images of fantasy and other realities from across the world mixed with the evening news. Film sequences were filed in her personal 'memory theatre', and are still instantly recalled and associated with particular emotions. But Moffatt did not dream of being the helpless object of the hero's gaze - she wanted to direct the film. (Source: NGA)


The Moffatt children were the only indigenous kids at Mt Gravatt East State School and then Mt Gravatt State High School. (Source:

She attended the Queensland College of Art where she graduated with a degree in visual communications in 1982 and received an honorary doctorate in 2004.

It was seven years [after graduating] before she showcased her first artistic series, which went on to become a success throughout Australia.

With camera
(Source: Ronin Films)


Moffatt has established herself as an independent photographer and filmmaker. Since her first photographic series in 1989, she has gone on to create more series, Pet Thang in 1991, Scarred for Life in 1994, Laudanum in 1998, Up in the Sky, also in 1998, and Scarred for Life II, which was her final series of the 1990’s, which was showcased in 1999.

During the 2000’s, Moffatt created Fourth in 2001, Adventure Series in 2004, Under The Sign of Scorpio in 2005 and Portraits in 2007. Coupled with her photographic series, Moffatt has made short films, a feature film and some experimental videos. Guniwaya Ngigu was a documentary made by Moffatt in 1982, Nice Coloured Girls was her first short film, in 1987, which was followed up by Night Cries in 1989. Her most notable film, and her only feature length film, Bedevil was released in 1993, Heaven in 1997, Lip in 1999, Artist in 2000, Doomed in 2007 and finally Revolution, her last released work was shown in 2008.

In 2017 she represented Australia at the 57th Venice Biennale with her solo exhibition, "My Horizon". Her works are held in the collections of the Tate, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia and Art Gallery of New South Wales. (Source: TATE)

(Source: SMH)

Experiences & Opportunities

In 1986 Moffatt, then a young photographer and film-maker, was the driving force behind the first contemporary exhibition by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander photographers. The exhibition, held in Sydney during National Aborigines Week in September, featured the work of 10 photographers.
The exhibition's invitation card featured a Hollywood-style head and shoulders study by Michael Riley of Kristina, a Sydney Koori [Aboriginal person], in fashionable sunglasses. Kristina's glamour removed the image from the overt political and social commentary expected in the representation of Aboriginal subjects, but that was the point - indigenous artists had the right to affirm their identity but also to present 'normalising' or glamorous images of Aboriginal people. One commentator described Riley's image as 'very political, black girls weren't meant to be seriously chic'. More than a decade later Australian fashion magazines have yet to star any Aboriginal models.  (Source: NGA)

Her works are all currently held in the Tate in the United Kingdom, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Her work has also been shown at the Hermitage Museum in Russia and the ARoS Aarhus Museum in Denmark.

In 2003, Moffatt was named one of Australia’s 50 most collectable artists by Australian Art Collector magazine.

Her 2007 film Doomed was made in collaboration with Gary Hillberg, another notable Australian artist.

Moffatt has seen two of her films be considered for the Cannes Film Festival, Night Cries in 1990, which was up for competition but lost to The Lunch Date by Adam Davidson, and Bedevil was showcased at the 1993 festival.


YouTube Videos

Tracey Moffatt _ Feminist Statement - Brooklyn Museum


Australia - Tracey Moffatt - My Horizon - Venice Biennale 2017



Sydney Morning Herald 11 May 2017

National Gallery of Australia: World of Dreamings

Art Gallery NSW - Tracey Moffatt - Biography

Art Gallery NSW
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Potter Museum of Art

Potter Museum of Art
The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership

The Age 14 January 2004

The Age 19 January 2015

Did You Know?

Australia Council awards Tracey Moffatt with an OA 27 January 2016

Ms Moffatt has been recognised “for distinguished service to the visual and performing arts as a photographer and film maker, and as a mentor and supporter of, and role model for, Indigenous artists”.

“The Australia Council is delighted that Tracey has been recognised in this way nationally, and that she will also be an ambassador for Australia internationally at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

“Tracey is the first Australian Indigenous artist to present a solo exhibition in the Australian Pavilion at this prestigious event.

(Source: Australia Council)



Your Photographic Series (adapted from Jen Bartell, ACU Education student)

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

1. You have been given an opportunity to showcase your photographs at the National Gallery of Australia! The NGA has requested that you send them five photographics within a particular theme to become a series.

To become aquainted with the quality of the work required by the NGA, you are to research one of the photographs by Tracey Moffatt in one of her series.

You are to write a short review on the piece from the eye of a collector or a museum goer.

2. You are to explore your environment and decide on your theme for your series. The photographs must:

  • show a clear outlined theme
  • appeal to teenagers
  • have at least one black and white photograph within the series, and,
  • be taken outside the classroom

3. Once you have decided on your five photographs, you are to

  • name your series
  • name the photographs 
  • nominate sequence of viewing the photographs
  • give a brief meaning behind the series - why this theme?
  • write a personal reflection about your series - what captured your imagination?


Nicknames and Emotional Pain: "Scarred for Life"

MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

Ethical Understanding Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability



1. Tracey started photographing her life at the age of 13. In pairs, look at the following photograph of Tracey as a 13 - 14 year old.

(Source: TATE)

Analyse the photograph. What do you see here?

2. Write a creative response to this photograph individually - just a paragraph. Share with your partner.

3. "The images depicted in Scarred for life (1994) are universally recognisable as snapshots of bitterly traumatic childhood memories: a girl washing a car, two kids playing, sisters who dress up to go out. Moffatt's captions make for a harrowing effect: 'Her father's nickname for her was Useless'. " (Source: Potter Museum of Art)

Do you have a "Nickname"? How do you feel about your "nickname"? Good? Indifferent? Don't care? Hurt?

Describe how you feel.

If your Dad called you "Useless" as a nickname, how do you think you would feel. Describe in detail.

4. What about others in your class - do they have "nicknames"? How did they come about?

Are they:

  • Derogatory

  • Disparaging

  • Critical

  • Insulting

  • Offensive

  • Deprecating

  • Belittling?

 Or, Amusing? (to whom?)

Or, Admiring?

Or, signs of love (from parents but derogatory when said by other classmates?)?

5. Have you started calling someone in your class a "nickname" that is belittling? Why?

6. Personal Reflection. Write a letter to yourself about how you feel about nicknames in general and if you have one, your nickname.

7. As a class, conduct a Community of Inquiry, using the image of Tracey above as the stimulus material.

8. Optional. Using the material from Art Class Curator, select ONE activity to complete.

Art Class Curator


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