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Gavin Wanganeen
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Gavin Wanganeen

Gavin Wanganeen is an Australian Football League (AFL) legend, acclaimed contemporary Indigenous artist and Aboriginal activist. Two-time Premiership winner, member of the AFL Hall of Fame and Brownlow medallist, Gavin Wanganeen is reputed as one of the best to ever play the game. Gavin blazed a trail as the first Indigenous player to receive a Brownlow medal and reach 300 games.

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Gavin Wanganeen Travels from SA
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Gavin Wanganeen's Biography

Gavin Wanganeen is an Australian Football League (AFL) legend, acclaimed contemporary Indigenous artist and Aboriginal activist. Two-time Premiership winner, member of the AFL Hall of Fame and Brownlow medallist, Gavin Wanganeen is reputed as one of the best to ever play the game.

Gavin’s AFL career spanned 300 senior games at the Essendon and Port Adelaide Football Clubs, earning him countless accolades, including the dedication of a grandstand at Adelaide Oval in 2015, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the game.

Gavin blazed a trail as the first Indigenous player to receive a Brownlow medal and reach 300 games. Having retired from the AFL over a decade ago, he continues to inspire and break new ground through his work as a contemporary Indigenous artist.

Gavin was born in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and is a descendent of the Kokatha people of the Western Desert in South Australia. The Kokatha people hold the Tjukupa (lore) and have a strong connection to country, the night sky and stories in the stars – a source of inspiration for Gavin’s paintings.

Growing up, Gavin spent time on South Australia’s west coast where his maternal great-grandfather, Dick Davey, was a respected leader of the people of Koonibba Mission and the community at large. Davey was one of the first Indigenous people to be “permitted” to purchase land, and was a talented footballer, playing for the Koonibba Football Club, today recognised as the country’s oldest surviving Aboriginal football club.

From a young age, Gavin embraced a love of colour and storytelling through art. Yet it wasn’t until his twenties, through a friendly competition with his Indigenous Port Adelaide Football Club teammates to produce an artwork from their respective regions, that Gavin made the life changing decision to start painting.

Gavin began exploring his ancestral links on canvas, recreating memories and capturing the beauty of the Australian outback. Today Gavin’s astonishing natural talent continues to blossom, attracting national attention and acclaim and firmly establishing him as a contemporary Indigenous artist to watch.

Gavin is devoted to giving back to community through his role as ambassador for Power Community Programs with the Port Adelaide Football Club and Deadly Choices, an initiative run by Aboriginal Health. He travels to remote Aboriginal communities, predominantly in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjattjara (APY) Lands in north-west South Australia, encouraging positive life choices through sport, education, culture and community.

Gavin is also an ambassador for the AFL’s Aboriginal youth football team, the Boomerangs, and travelled with the group to China in 2016.

In addition, the Gavin Wanganeen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholarship at the University of South Australia was established in 2005 to enable members of these communities to continue their education and, in turn, become role models themselves.

“Football has not only provided me with wonderful opportunities, it’s also instilled a strong sense of achievement and an understanding that role models can make a real difference to people’s lives. I believe Indigenous kids need a range of role models. Yes sport plays an important role, but they also need exposure to leaders from a range of vocations: teachers, business leaders, medical professionals, researchers and artists.” – Gavin Wanganeen

“My mother was part of the Stolen Generation, taken from her parents when she was a young girl. To learn about that, and come to terms with it, is a complex and powerful process.

I began painting ten years ago as a means of bringing me back to my culture. On the canvas, I am connecting with my heritage; the history of my family, my country and my people. I really enjoy experimenting with colour and developing my own unique style.”

Gavin Wanganeen is devoted to giving back to community through his role as ambassador for Power Community Programs with the Port Adelaide Football Club and Deadly Choices, an initiative run by Aboriginal Health. He travels to remote Aboriginal communities, predominantly in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjattjara (APY) Lands in north-west South Australia, encouraging positive life choices through sport, education, culture and community.