The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has been memorialised in a stunning new artwork.

The artwork, titled Respectful Listening, was created by Wiradjuri Elder and artist, Paul Constable Calcott, who himself lives with a disability.

Respectful Listening depicts the journey of the seven Commissioners carrying a message stick across Country as they collect stories from people living with disability, their families, communities and loved ones.

The artwork shows private sessions, public hearings and yarning circles; the various methods Commissioners have used to collect stories so far. Uncle Paul said the Royal Commission has a want to connect to communities and is a culturally safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their truths.

One of the seven Commissioners is proud Kronie and Ngaanyatjarra woman, with strong ties to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara communities, Andrea Mason OAM. Mason is the only First Nations Commissioner heading the enquiry.

The colours of the artwork capture the diversity of communities across Australia, from the desert, to the mountain and sea and the Torres Strait, explained Uncle Paul.

“When I was approached to develop an artwork for the Royal Commission, I saw it as a huge honour, and a wonderful opportunity,” he said.

“To get to play some small part in this whole process is huge for me and I hope the artwork encourages all Australians with a story to tell about violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, to come forward.”

Through his art, Uncle Paul paints the Royal Commission as a safe space for storytelling.

“That’s why I used the shields, because the shields protect you from harm, and the Royal Commission is somewhere you will be safe and protected to tell your story,” he said.

Ronald Sackville AO QC, Chair of the Royal Commission, said the Commissioners took pride in Uncle Paul’s painting.

“Uncle Paul has captured the essence of the Commission’s responsibilities more powerfully than mere words,” Sackville said.

“We hope that his wonderful painting will inspire people with disability, particularly First Nation people, to tell us their stories.”

Uncle Paul worked in the disability sector for over 30 years and is the National Training and Resource Development Manager with the First Peoples Disability Network.

He has had a huge role in local and international exhibitions that showcase artwork by First Nations People with disability. In 2019, Uncle Paul took an exhibition to the United Nations headquarters, Palais des Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland.

By Rachael Knowles