Inaugural Art Bursary Awarded to Paul Bong a Yidinji Artist from Babinda.

On 28th July 2015, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair hosted a magical breakfast in honour of Thancoupie.

As inaugural patron of CIAF alongside the Governor of Queensland, in that role she had represented the remote communities of the Cape as well as the Traditional Communities of Queensland. Thancoupie was to hold that prestigious position until her death. This role has been amended this year- the Governor, His Excellency The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC now holds this position of Patron as he wished, but in the spirit of true grit, the gently spoken but formidably erudite Yidinji TO Henrietta Fourmile now gives stirring honour to the Traditional Owners as she takes the stage for all Welcome to Country moments at all CIAF events, including the Thancoupie Bursary breakfast. She praised Thancoupie’s art, her vision for young people, her spiritual nature and through her community reconciliation work, her generous understanding of the human frailties we all share.

When Thancoupie’s public sculpture commission for Cairns’ Queens Garden was first discussed between Arts Queensland, Kick Arts Cairns and Thancoupie, Henrietta revealed that prior to accepting the commission, Thancoupie went to the leaders of the Yidinji people and courteously asked “May I put my sculpture on your land?”-she had been the only artist to have ever done that. It was traditional courtesy and law- and they had agreed. Henrietta spoke of Thancoupie’s indelible presence in the far north especially in Cairns and at the time of CIAF.

As Thancoupie’s Bursary Patron, The Honourable Leneen Forde AC awarded Thancoupie’s inaugural art bursary to Paul Bong a Yidinji artist from Babinda, south of Cairns.

He will continue his exploration of art printing with master printer Theo Tremblay in the Canopy Art Space in Cairns and will also travel to his exhibitions elsewhere to widen his understanding of the Australian art community and the roles of galleries and public institutions.

Thancoupie had a long history of mentoring Paul Bong during her time in Cairns, encouraging him to learn about Yidinji law and imagery from his uncle Stewart Bong, and combining with them on public art works for the Brisbane international airport in the mid 1990s.

The Bursary event was held in the open garden near Thancoupie’s sculpture, and as rain lifted miraculously and those magical Cairns clouds let the early morning sunlight shafts into the garden, all the VIPs present and all the hopeful artists were touched. It seemed a totally good omen for CIAF’s coming events.

Paul Bong pic

Bursary winner for 2015, Paul Bong ( left) with Jenny Isaacs and Paul’s son.
Paul will train in advanced printmaking with Theo Tremblay at Canopy Arts in Cairns 

Thancoupie's Bursary Fund

The Thancoupie Bursary is a unique scholarship for study in the arts offered to Indigenous youth of the Western Cape York communities. It was the dream of a great Queensland Indigenous artist, Thancoupie (1937–2011).

The Bursary began with a modest sum left in Thancoupie’s will for a fund to promote and support emerging young Aboriginal artists and aspiring Aboriginal arts workers.

Thancoupie’s Bursary Fund offers an annual award to an eligible Aboriginal person, to assist him or her to undertake study or training in art or an arts-related field at a centre away from their usual place of residence.

Applications close 31 August 2014

For more information including How to Apply visit:


The Western Cape York Aboriginal Youth Art Bursary:

In 2011, as requested by Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher AO in her legacy, the ABF announced the launch of an Education Bursary to support aspiring young Aboriginal artists and trainees from the Western Cape York Peninsula, in arts related disciplines.

Since its launch, the ABF has been instrumental in facilitating fundraising and the establishment of a committee to raise further monies to create a bursary that can be viable and perpetual.

Through the sale of significant artworks at Fundraising Art Auctions, hosted in Cairns and Sydney in 2011 & 2012, and through the provision of matching funds by the Queensland Government, the Bursary now totals aproximately $168,000.

The Bursary Management Committee, chaired by Jean Little, Thancoupie’s tribal niece and senior elder of Cape York, with the assistance of Kick Arts Cairns, will offer the first bursary in 2013.

The ABF is interested in supporting this initiative and linking recipients of this bursary with other Indigenous training and employment schemes – both in their own communities and nationally.

For further information please contact:

Jean Little: or Ingrid Hoffmann:

The Aboriginal Benefits Foundation Fundraising Art Auction 2011

The ABF would like to thank everyone involved in the Fundraising Art Auction held in November 2011.

The Auction successfully raised funds to be used to restore the flood-damaged Warmun Art Centre, in support of the Cape York Educational /Training Bursary, and for the ABF to continue to provide support to Aboriginal communities across Australia.


In August 2010 the ABF launched it’s first eNewsletter, a retrospective news letter informing it’s friends and supporters of the activities of the Foundation over it’s first few years. It is the aim of the ABF to send eNewsletters, keeping all supporters up-to-date with ABF news, fundraising and grants information on a regular basis. For a PDF copy of the 2010 and 2011 ABF eNewsletters see below.

If you would like to be added to our eNews database please email your details to

Aboriginal Benefits Foundation Newsletters

August 2010 Newsletter

August 2011 Newsletter