SORRY, through his eyes by Stephen Copland


“As a visual artist I believe my role in the 21st century is not only to create life- affirming works but also to deal with content that has a socio-political edge. The problems that continue to blight our new century, where neglect for human rights, abuses of political power and the marriage of the media, institutions and politics, need artists to raise an informed voice in protest to promote dialogue and seek solutions. Recently my artwork has dealt with portraits of human rights activists Julian Burnside QC and Dr Helen Caldicott and their historic roles in attempting to shift public perception and increase awareness. A recent discussion with an indigenous Australian visual artist who works within the prison system with predominately Aboriginal inmates introduced me for the first time to a direct experience of the problems facing the traditional owners of our country, and the overwhelming statistic of deaths in custody.

In the last decade 145 indigenous people died in custody throughout Australia, an increase from the previous decade where 110 deaths in custody occurred. In 2005, an indigenous Australian is 11 times more likely to be in prison than a non-indigenous Australian. More than one third of the deaths (30) are caused by disease; self-inflicted hangings (30), head injuries (23) drugs or alcohol (9). Despite a Royal Commission in 1991, there appears to be a lack of political will to reverse these shocking statistics. The Australian Government’s refusal to act morally with indigenous issues coupled with the lack of a symbolic apology, a “sorry” from our leader, Mr John Howard, is a painful and neglectful message to reinforce past and present human rights abuses in the eyes of every Australian citizen. This conversation really galvanised the desperate situation facing the indigenous population in custody and my response was a set of three graphic images where the central figure, an indigenous elder who witnesses the unfolding sad narrative for the continuing plight of his people”.

Stephen Copland


The unique concentrated body of artworks titled “Raft: The Drifting Border (2004-2014)” by Australian artist Stephen Copland explores how our ideas about borders affect our notion of ourselves as humans and influence our views and behaviour towards outsiders.
With this confronting series the artist is concerned with how Australians fixate their hopes and fears on the watery border of the ocean – the wavering line that defines our cultural identity as an island and separates us from Asia with all its seemingly alien complexities and contradictions.


Please Read

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.