Pam Johnston. Photo: courtesy of C. Moore-Hardy, 2012.

Pam was a proud Bundjalung woman. An artist, mother, grandmother, sister and friend to many, a long-term resident of Sydney's Woolloomooloo, she was a true leftie, advocating for social justice, equality and the rights of minority groups. She was a visual arts teacher, not only in her community but also at Mulawa Women’s Prison and Long Bay Jail. She was a prolific artist and writer, and exhibiting her work sustained her.

Pam’s artistic career kicked off following her time at East Sydney Technical College, and then the National Art School (NAS) in Sydney. From the mid-1980s, Pam regularly exhibited her powerful and distinctive women-spirit imagery in a variety of venues including Boomalli Aboriginal Artists’ Co-operative in Redfern, as well as being selected for Australian Perspecta - A Koori Perspective, at Artspace, Sydney in 1989. Solo shows were held in Sydney venues such as The Works Gallery, Paddington, and the James Harvey Gallery, alongside presentations of her works at the Lismore and Grafton Regional Galleries. A collaborative project evolved from NAS and in 1993 the group known as 2+2=5 was formed. Over the last 20 years, 2+2=5 have held several exhibitions – at The Tin Sheds Gallery, Selenium, First Draft and The Women’s Gallery in Fitzroy, Victoria to name a few. At the time of her death, the group were working towards their next exhibition.

Pam continued to study, completing her Masters Degree in 1991 at COFA. A woman of great spirit and persistence, she graduated with her Doctor of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong in 1998 and was the first Indigenous candidate to do so. It was entitled Transformation (Death) Appropriation, Conception (Birth) Identity, Transition (Life) Land, her accompanying exhibition was called Indigenous Women’s Spirituality. In 2009 she was awarded a PhD at the University of Technology, Sydney. Pam was involved in numerous Sydney Community Arts projects, the most recent being with the Bellevue Hill Public School for a commemoration of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy 40 years on project shown at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in 2012.

In recent years Pam was invited to exhibit and speak in Scotland, the UK, Belgium, Spain and the US. Her works are in public and private collections in Australia and abroad. She first began associations with artists and institutions in the UK in the 1990s and worked with the same group of artists, curators, academics and friends over the years, showing her work in the Lake District in England in 2001 and again at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal in 2003. During Pam’s residency at the Brewery, she inspired the Women’s Arts International Festival in Kendal, held in 2007. Pam’s show Shimmer was first shown in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1990s and she was in discussions to show Shimmer and new works murrunmara girramara "living hands ashes hands" at the Lake District Holocaust Project’s gallery space in May this year.

Pam’s sudden passing has left us with great sadness but also comfort for having known such a vivacious, engaging, outspoken woman and role model – as she would say “you know – you can do it all” and she did. She will be missed by all who knew her and our deepest sympathy goes to her children, her partner, and extended families.