This exhibition features drawings by Charlie Flannigan, a young Aboriginal stockman from western Queensland who came to the Northern Territory as a drover in 1883. A skilled horseman and prize winning jockey, Flannigan was also a competent artist.
Flannigan’s drawings of homesteads, streetscapes and outback scenes were all created while he was in solitary confinement in Fannie Bay Gaol from 1892 to 1893. Sentenced to death for the murder of a station manager, Flannigan spent his days shackled at the wrists and ankles, drawing remembered scenes from happier days and chronicling his extradition to Darwin.
Flannigan’s sentence created huge controversy at the time because a white man, also convicted of murder, had recently had his sentence commuted to life in prison. Cries that “even handed justice” was not being carried out made their way to the South Australian Executive Council. In spite of this Flannigan became the first man to be executed in the Northern Territory on 15 July 1893.
A Little Bit of Justice brings to attention the racial inequities experienced in the nineteenth century in the Territory. Through his drawings Flannigan provides a rare glimpse into the life of an Aboriginal stockman, the joys of riding horseback and details of his arrest and extradition to Darwin by steamship. This is the first time the drawings have been exhibited together.
Exhibiting in The Laneway as its first traveling exhibit is “A Little Bit of Justice” The Drawings of Charlie Flannigan. This exhibition is highly accessible and will have broad appeal to both children and adults alike. It evocatively brings to life the landscapes and streetscapes of the Territory in the nineteenth century and will be of particular interest to students undertaking frontier history with a focus on race relations.
Image credit: Charlie Flannigan – Horseman leaping from a cliff, 1892. Courtesy of the South Australian Museum.