Excerpt from a contribution that her friend and colleague, Nellie Green, wrote for the Close to You: The Lisa Bellear Picture Show at the Koorie Heritage Trust (21 May-17 July 2016)
Lisa was ‘old school’. She was steadfast about her traditional methods, which included cameras that used rolls of film and not the perceived shortcut of digital. I spent many hours with her cutting strips of paper into labels to be meticulously affixed to A4 photo prints developed at the La Trobe Image Shop. She would then take the annotated prints back to the shop to be laminated, usually at the last hour and just in time for a display or exhibition, or to go into big envelopes to be sent on a journey to their rightful owner/s. There was no ‘quick and easy’ in this process. It was a ritual that followed protocol.
Lisa was always keen to be part of informing the University community and others about Indigenous perspectives, raising awareness about Indigenous issues and reaffirming Indigenous culture, and she would painstakingly select her photos to align with the event at hand.
Naturally, some of the topics she informed others about were extremely emotive and resulted in audience members reassessing their own values and opinions and seeking more information.
Sometimes Indigenous people first saw images of family they had never met (being members of the Stolen Generations) in images Lisa displayed, and I remember her telling me how important the symbolism of it was for her. The reconnecting of far-flung people, in spite of impossible odds, gave people hope. It gave communities hope. It gave Lisa hope. And I know it was very important to her given her own background and what she herself couldn’t reclaim.
Lisa’s impact at La Trobe, in a professional and personal capacity cannot be understated. Her reputation hung about her like a protective cloak, and she was never hesitant to wrap that cloak around others when needed. She generously shared her knowledge, her connections, her insights and her calm. She was a guide, protector, mediator, mentor and such a strong source of friendship.
Her untimely passing has left a void that is simply unfillable and that has taken me some time to accept. I wish she was here with her daily affirmations of love, forgiveness and acceptance, camera about her neck taking the happy snaps she was renowned for, making sure everyone had their cuppa tea with their piece of Boston Bun – if only for long enough to tell her how amazing she was, how many people she touched and how much difference she made to our place.
With eternal love and respect x
Yorga Nellie (as Lisa affectionately called me.)