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30 years of chief ministers: the official portraits we should have had

Colin Holt

2 - 12 July 2008

Click images for full artwork details


For six days from 23 August 1973 four hostages were held in a siege at the Sveriges Kreditbank in the central Norrmalmstorg district of Stockholm. Jan-Erik Olsson—soon to be joined by a former prison cell mate from Nörrkoping Penitentiary, Clark Olofsson—entered the bank to a burst of machine gun fire and the cry “the party has just begun!”

Two police responded, with Olsson wounding one in a gun duel. The second was disarmed and forced to “sing something”. The officer sang Lonesome Cowboy before being sent on his way.

Just under five years later, on 1 July 1978, 114,000 residents of the Northern Territory more or less willingly subjected themselves to self government. Former Alice Springs solicitor Paul Everingham leapt on to the stage at The Esplanade to a burst of fireworks and an unfurled flag and the cry “Now we have come of age”. It is a siege that has endured for thirty years.

There was no gunfire; any wounds were self inflicted. Tom Harris got up on stage and sang When the gins come down from Oenpelli. He later became Education Minister.

Both groups of hostages have exhibited what Swedish criminologist Nils Berjerot termed “Stockholm Syndrome”. 

According to Bejerot and others discussing the condition, the syndrome is a coping mechanism evidenced by three characteristics. There are positive feelings on the part of the hostage toward the hostage taker; and positive feelings reciprocated by the hostage taker toward the hostage. There are negative feelings on the part of the hostage toward authorities.

For three decades, people in the Northern Territory have exhibited behaviour that is strongly symptomatic of the Stockholm Syndrome, and this has been personified for us in the figure of our eight chief ministers. We feel positively about them; just as they do about us. From the original “King of the Kids”—Porky Everingham—through to new-kid-on-the-block—Hendo—we have come to believe, under their benevolent guidance, that we “do things differently in the Northern Territory”. We have come to dislike authority, epitomised by Canberra and everything else from “down South”. We are Territorians.

Our chief hostage takers have been our chief ministers—and we love them for it.

In this exhibition, the George Grosz of Darwin, Colin Holt, honours our glorious leaders with 30 years of chief ministers: the official portraits we should have had.

Paul Everingham 1 July 1978-16 October 1984
Ian Tuxworth 17 October 1984-14 May 1986
Steve Hatton 15 May 1986-13 July 1988
Marshall Perron 14 July 1988-26 May 1995
Shane Stone, 26 May 1995-8 February 1999
Dennis Burke, 9 February 1999-26 August 2001
Clare Martin, 27 August 2001-26 November 2007
Paul Henderson, 26 November 2007-present

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