In 2020, Dr Fiona Foley was awarded the State Library of Queensland’s inaugural Monica Clare Research Fellowship as part of the State Library of Queensland’s Memory Awards. Dr Foley’s Fellowship resulted in the publication of her book Bogimbah Creek Mission: The First Aboriginal Experiment and her photographic series, The Magna Carta Tree. The works highlight an all-but-forgotten aspect of our history: the removal of 51 Badtjala people from Maryborough to Fraser Island to set up the Bogimbah Creek Mission. Dr Foley calls it an experiment in segregation. 

The Monica Clare Research Fellowship is an annual award for individuals who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. It supports research endeavours that contribute to the understanding and advancement of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and cultures by providing recipients with a $20,000 stipend and the opportunity to utilise the archival collections and resources available at the John Oxley Library and State Library.

It is one of the fellowships available through the State Library’s Queensland Memory Awards.

Image: Doomadgee Rodeo, photo by Hamish Cairns, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland[15082]

Already well-known as a writer and artist, Dr Foley said that the recognition she gained through the Monica Clare Fellowship brought prestige and allowed her to conduct research on a previously unexplored aspect of her work.

“I was the inaugural recipient – there was prestige associated with it. And it meant I could do research where there was a gap in a previous work that I had done in relation to a piece of legislation, and I could focus a bit more on some of the literature what was contained within the collection at the State Library of Queensland”. 

The fellowship enabled Foley to delve deeper into her research.

“I had already published Biting the Clouds with UQP, but you can’t put everything into one publication, so the outcome of the Monica Claire research fellowship was a second publication. I could go back, and fact check the information and I was also able put in old black and white images that people from my area, probably weren’t aware of,” Dr Foley said.

Dr Foley said the Monica Clare Research Fellowship has empowered various recipients to shed light on the history of different regions within the state. She said participation depends on the proposed projects and the ideas surrounding them: it is independent of how far along you are with your research or your experience as a researcher.

“It’s more about your ideas and how you can use the collection to assist you to gain more information and to put it in the public domain,” she said.

Dr Foley said the State Library is a valuable resource.

“The State Library is a good starting point, but you can always use other resources and other collections to enhance the work that you’re doing.” 

The monetary support provided by the fellowship played a crucial role in Foley’s ability to publish her book.

“The funds went towards the publication costs. I didn’t have the funds and I wouldn’t have been able to publish the book.” 

Dr Foley is best known for her visual art. When asked about her preference for visual or written expression, Foley revealed, “Writing for me is harder. You have to sit with it longer. But my natural forte is the visual arts.”

Foley said that non-Aboriginal people are often shocked and surprised by the history revealed through her research.

“It’s because the education system here is so lacking, that, combined with people being wilfully ignorant.” 

 “Truth Telling,” she said, is a new word for what she has been doing for over three decades.

Queensland Memory Awards

The Queensland Memory Awards are now open for people wanting to take their research project to the next level.

State Library of Queensland’s research fellowships assist researchers in uncovering a Queensland story. State Library seeks projects on Queensland history, First Nations and LGBTIQA+ histories, and collections data.

The fellowships are open to Australian residents in any discipline or form of expression for projects or research. This includes but is not limited to researchers, artists, creatives, filmmakers, digital media practitioners, musicians and composers, curators and arts professionals, writers, independent scholars, and other creators.

  • John Oxley Library Fellowship – $25,000
  • Rainbow Research Fellowship – $20,000
  • Monica Clare Research Fellowship – $20,000
  • Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship – $15,000
  • Digital collections catalyst – $15,000
  • Christina Boughen OAM Fellowship – $10,000

Successful applicants receive:

  • A personal workspace within the Neil Roberts Research Lounge at State Library for 12 months
  • Premium access to State Library’s extensive collections and library staff expertise.

A personal workspace within the Neil Roberts Research Lounge for 12 months and premium access to State Library’s extensive collections and library staff expertise. 

Examples of the range of projects completed by award winners includes:

Applications close 5pm 14 August 2023.

Cover image: Dr Fiona Foley, SLQ.