Janet Dawson won the 1973 award for her portrait of writer Michael Boddy. Cairns’s portrait is a wonderfully intimate work that celebrates the relationship while also making a playful reference to Gothe-Snape’s experimental sculptural installation with the treatment on the window at the back.

This year’s competitions are a radical shift that reaffirms the power of artists who hail from the APY lands in the heart of Australia. The five Ken sisters were the winners of Seven Sisters last year.

The Archibald Prize was awarded to Tjungkara’s self-portrait Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters Dreaming).

The Wynne, Betty Kuntiwa Pumani’s Antara is displayed high to act as a benign presence in the room. The Wynne Award was first given 120 years ago at a period when Australian Impressionism dominated and Aboriginal culture wasn’t highly valued.

Betty Kuntiwa Pumani Antara, acrylic on linen, 200 x 300 cm. (c) The artist Photo: Jenni Carter, AGNSW

Betty Kuntiwa Pumani and her sister Ngupulya delivered their speeches in English. A young colleague translated them. Sally, the translator, raised her arms high in celebration at the end of their speeches. It was one of those great moments of the award’s history.

The Sir John Sulman Prize is awarded as the third prize at the annual festival of engagement with the community. The Sulman Prize, awarded for genre or historical painting, is judged not by trustees but by an artist.

Tony Albert, a finalist for the Archibald, awarded Joan Ross’s You lied to Me history. It is a continuation of Ross’s critique of colonization through the reworking of old images.

Joan Ross, You Lied to Me, Mixed Media Painting on Paper 95 x 120 cm. (c) The artist Photo: Jenni Carter, AGNSW

She views history as an “unfaithful lover,” liar, and betrayer, even as she collects objects of the past. She has recreated Gainsborough’s Mrs. and Mr Andrews to create a fictional Leverian Museum, which holds relics of Cook’s voyages. It is in the shape of a collage.

Someone from the gallery wrote captions to encourage children to look at the artwork in the competitions. This is an admirable policy, and along with the young Archie is a sign of the gallery’s concern for encouraging a new generation of art lovers and artists.