Words: Louise Martin-Chew
There is urgency driving Brenda L. Croft’s prestigious appointment as Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser (GWMF) Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University. It is an opportunity, beginning in July 2023, that she contextualises with gratitude.
“I stand on the shoulders of many – my immediate family, my siblings, my parents, my grandparents, mentors – First Nations and non-Indigenous – who have supported me from my earliest days to now,” she says. “They guide everything I do, as does my son. Wanting to make opportunities available for his generation, building on the opportunities made available to me. Everything becomes more urgent the older I get, there is no time to waste.”
Croft, already celebrated in Australia as an artist and academic, travels to Harvard in March, and will then assume the GWMF Chair of Australian Studies in July. Amongst her plans are a series of events or symposia with national and international First Nations, Black and People of Colour creative-led practitioners and researchers. Close to her heart is establishing a post-doctoral scholarship in honour of her late brother, Lindsay Croft. He attended Harvard courtesy of a Harkness Fellowship in 1993-94.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility to generate outcomes beyond my tenure – this cannot simply be a personal professional opportunity,” says Croft. “My time there has to also create pathways for other Australian First Nations peoples. Being based overseas for an extended period in such a significant position at one of the world’s leading tertiary institutions requires intense focus and I do not intend to waste one moment.
“The past few years have created a laser focus in terms of what I may be able to achieve in the remainder of my life. I will turn 60 while at Harvard… I don’t expect to have another three decades so I’m intending to hit the ground at a very fast walk (running is not my thing!).”
In January 2023, Croft will present 60 largescale commissioned photographic portraits of contemporary First Nations women and girls in a series titled Naabami (thou will/shall see): Barangaroo (army of me) for Sydney Festival.
Featured image: Artist Brenda L. Croft. Photo: James Henry.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.