Mavis Phillips (nee Walley 1921–1982) is one of Australia’s earliest known Indigenous photographers. Through her box brownie camera Mavis captured the everyday moments of her family and community in Goomalling, Western Australia from the 1930s.
Her photographs capture joy, spontaneity, pride and hope from the thriving wheatbelt Aboriginal community. The photos are extremely rare in that they capture daily life from a Noongar perspective.
In 2015 Mavis’ daughter, Dallas Phillips, brought a collection of old negatives stored in a chocolate tin to a photo sharing session run by Community Arts Network. The photos were taken by her late mother and bequeathed to Dallas. She was unaware of their historical and cultural value until they were digitised by the State Library. These images were a revelation for Dallas and are of personal as well as historic significance for WA.
The images show Mavis’s natural flair for composition and offer a rare glimpse into the experience of a Noongar family and community in the wheatbelt region of WA.
Dallas always wanted to see her mother’s photos in a professional exhibition. Now, thanks to a partnership between the Perth Centre for Photography, Community Arts Network and the State Library of Western Australia, a selection of images, curated by Dallas Phillips herself, will be featured at the Perth Centre for Photography, with a satellite exhibits, projections and screenings around Perth, including a smaller selection in the Nook at the State Library.
Exhibition opens: 14 May Perth Centre for Photography - King Street Art Centre, Murray Street Perth. Exhibition continues Sat 15 May – Sat 31 July
More than 360 of these images have now been digitised and stored on the State Library’s Storylines database and can be accessed here. Explore some of the images in Storylines.
Dallas shared her story and memories of her mother Mavis, and their life on the farm at Goomalling, alongside Dr Kate with Christine Layton on History Repeated.
Recorded live on ABC Radio Perth on 14 May 2021.