CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses childhood sexual abuse.

Australian of the Year and childhood sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame has shared a beautiful portrait of herself by Sydney-based artist Kirsty Neilson, which was today announced as one of the finalists for the Archibald Prize 2021.

A whopping 938 portraits were entered into this year’s Archibald Prize and 52 were selected.

This year marks 100 years of the Archibald, and is also the first time in its history that there is gender parity for artists selected as finalists. That’s 26 women and 26 men.

Neilson, who was also an Archibald Prize Finalist in 2016 and 2018, titled her portrait ‘Making Noise’, after she was inspired by Tame’s passion, strength, and bravery.

“Grace is a survivor of child sexual abuse and lent her story to Nina Funnell‘s acclaimed #LetHerSpeak campaign,” Neilson said, as per her Archibald finalist page.

“She was instrumental in changing an archaic ‘gag law’ in Tasmania that prevented victims from speaking out.”

Tame was groomed and repeatedly abused by her 58-year-old teacher when she was 15 years old. Her teacher, despite being convicted and jailed for the abuse, spoke freely to the media, but Tame could not.

She was silenced by Tasmania’s now repealed gag laws, which stopped survivors of child sexual abuse to publicly identify themselves.

In 2018, Tame worked with journalist Nina Funnell to launch the #LetHerSpeak campaign, which ultimately led to legal reform in Tasmania last year.

Tame was then named Australian of the Year 2021.

Neilson said she initially thought she needed to make the portrait more dramatic, but the longer she sat with Tame, the more the painting became a reflection of their honest and raw time together.

“Grace is wearing a white T-shirt, which has become an unofficial symbol of women’s resistance,” Nielson continued. “Grace has been a catalyst in exposing how people have been treated, and is helping create change.”

On Instagram, Tame shared the portrait of herself and praised Neilson’s creation.

“When we first met over the phone, we connected instantly and spoke for almost an hour. She shares my passion for social justice, and intrinsic value of our collective voices in the pursuit of change,” she shared.

Tame also applauded this year’s representation of women finalists.

“How fitting, and symbolic of progress,” she wrote.

“Let’s keep making noise together!”

How absolutely stunning is the portrait? Especially the eyes, I can’t look away.

The Archibald Prize exhibition is slated to open June 5 to September 26, 2021 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

You can suss out the other finalists right here.


Help is available. If you require immediate assistance, please call 000. 

If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online.  

If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.  

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online. 

You can also reach the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or chat online.

Image: Instagram / Kirsty Neilson