Leading Australian Indigenous art collector and philanthropist, Ken McGregor, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Bond University on February 13, recognising his extensive work in advancing Indigenous communities, his contribution to education and his donations of artwork to several charities and the University.
Mr McGregor remains humbled by the honour.
“It’s overwhelming. You don’t do things in life to get honours, you just do them to do them. I’ve always tried to keep under the radar and stay out of the politics – I don’t have a meeting to organise another meeting – I’ve found over the years that remaining as anonymous as possible I’ve been able to get many more things done. If receiving this award opens other doors though, then that’s wonderful.”
Since the late 1970s, Mr McGregor has been devoted to the advancement of Indigenous people through their art and has campaigned for improved health outcomes for remote communities, including founding the charitable Desert Walk for Dialysis Appeal.
In 2011, he walked more than 1,000 kilometres, solo, from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to the remote Kiwirrkurra community in Western Australia to raise awareness and funds to combat the major issue of diabetes and kidney failure in remote communities. He recalls the event.
“It was really tough, 40 kms a day. I thought to myself that 40 kms would be a walk in the park but it’s quite a way and it’s not just one day. It’s four weeks of it every day and I’m no spring chicken! It was quite challenging but hopefully it did raise a lot of awareness and hopefully it will continue. “
His personal contributions include major donations and benefactions of prominent Indigenous artworks to regional galleries around Australia. He is a perpetual benefactor of the Gold Coast City Art Gallery and has authored and produced more than 30 art related publications.
Bond University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Tim Brailsford, said Mr McGregor had also made an important contribution to furthering Indigenous education through his generous donations of artworks to the annual Bond University Indigenous Gala fundraiser.
“In addition to supporting the art collection on campus, Ken has become an annual donor to the Gala, which has raised more than $1 million to support scholarships for Indigenous students to study at Bond University, making a major difference to the lives of these inspirational young people,” Mr Brailsford said.
Mr McGregor has noticed a vast improvement over the years in remote communities, but said that the people still just need a bit of help.
“The main thing on these communities is boredom and the young people on the communities just need things to do. The communities have improved a lot. The arts centres are being run beautifully and lot of money has been pouring in to build swimming pools.”
“People think that Aboriginal people get everything donated and everything for free, and they don’t, it’s not true.”
In fact, he feels that the main thing that your average person can do to help the situation is to first and foremost change their attitude.
“I still today hear people bagging Aboriginal people and that’s gotta stop because 95% of people in Australia have never even been to a community and they don’t know what it’s like, and the first thing to do is stop criticising people, no matter what their background. Everyone’s basically decent and they’re just trying to make a life for themselves and make a life for their children.”
“Slowly it will improve. They are very resourceful people. They just need a bit of help they’re not beggars… when you consider the hardships they’ve endured, a little bit of help from us is not too much to ask.”