1961 - 2006
Indigenous artist, activist, academic, Collingwood Councillor
At the age of 27 Lisa Bellear become the City of Collingwood's first and only Aboriginal councillor. She went on to serve on the Victorian Stolen Generation Taskforce and Reconciliation Victoria. Not only a passionate advocate for Aboriginal rights, she was a broadcaster, photographer, dramatist and poet.
Lisa was born in Melbourne on 2 May 1961 to Joycelyn “Binks” Bellear and Croatian father Stanko Kvesic. Her mother had come to Melbourne from Lismore to work for the Postmaster Generals Department. Unfortunately, soon after Lisa’s birth, her mother became very ill and returned to Lismore where she died. The baby was left in temporary respite care at the Berry Street Babies Home in East Melbourne. Despite communication with the family in Lismore and her grandmother continuing to pay for Lisa’s care, the baby was given up for adoption to a white family in country Victoria. She rediscovered her Aboriginal family and identity in her twenties, as a Goenpul woman of the Noonuccal people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Queensland.
Lisa’s secondary education was completed at Catholic schools, firstly at Sacred Heart College in Ballarat where she was a boarder, and for the last two years at Camperdown Catholic Regional College. She completed a Bachelor of Social Work at Melbourne University before going on to gain a Masters in Women's Studies and a Masters in Creative Writing. At the time of her death she was working on a doctorate at Latrobe University on Contemporary indigenous issues through radio and photographic texts. After completing her undergraduate degree in 1986, Lisa was appointed by the University of Melbourne to the new position of Koori Liaison Officer and continued working in universities for the rest of her life
In the 1988 Council elections, aged 27, Lisa was a successful Labor candidate for the Collingwood ward of Collingwood City Council. She valued her experience as a Councillor and later encouraged indigenous people and those from other minority groups to stand for local government. However, her ‘well-being and spirit began to suffer’ because of all the elements of her busy activism, as well as a fulltime job. She recalled that attending the July 1989 first Indigenous Women’s Conference in Adelaide was the turning point in setting her priorities straight and after the conference she decided to resign from Council.
Lisa used her wide range of creative skills to promote recognition of indigenous rights. For over 20 years from 1986 she was a broadcaster at community radio station 3CR where she presented ‘Not another Koori Show’. She was a published poet. As a photographer she created a collection of over 30,000 images documenting indigenous community life. She was a founding member of the Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-operative and the creative inspiration behind their 2006 production the Dirty Mile – tracing the history of Aboriginal life in Fitzroy.
Lisa died unexpectedly in her home in Brunswick in 2006 aged 45. Nearly 1000 mourners attended her funeral at the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League in Thornbury. Her life is commemorated in various ways including in the name of Lisa Bellear House, student housing at the University of Melbourne and in Warrior Woman Lane in Carlton (which displays words from one of her poems). She was inducted posthumously to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2008, nominated by the City of Yarra. In 2016, in presenting the exhibition Close to you: the Lisa Bellear Picture Show, the Koorie Heritage Trust paid tribute to the life and work of Lisa Bellear.
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|2 May 1961||Melbourne|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|5 July 2006||Brunswick||Mullumbimby, NSW|
City of Yarra Council minutes See meeting held 18 September 2007, pp.110-111
Lisa Bellear “Keep fighting, keep speaking out” in Breaking through: women, work and careers, ed. Jocelyn Scutt, Melbourne, Artemis Press, 1992, pp 57-63
Close to you: the Lisa Bellear Picture Show, editors Virginia Fraser, Kim Kruger, Destiny Deacon, Melbourne, Koorie Heritage Trust, 2016
Lisa Bellear, Dreaming in urban areas, St Lucia, Qld, University of Queensland Press, 1996
Lisa Bellear, Aboriginal country, UWA Publishing, 2018
Trove list: Lisa Bellear https://trove.nla.gov.au/list/169371