Uncle Les Elvin

Inducted December 2015

Les Elvin, better known locally as ‘Uncle’ Les, was a well-respected and much loved Wonnarua Elder, artist, businessman and educator. Born in Kearsley in 1938, Uncle Les lived and worked most of his life in and for the community of Cessnock.   

Uncle Les achieved great success and recognition as an artist, with works represented in public and private collections nationally and internationally. In 2008 he was named NAIDOC National Aboriginal Artist of the Year at the NAIDOC Week Awards - one of the highest accolades for Indigenous artists in Australia. The Award recognised Uncle Les’s outstanding contributions to improving the lives of Aboriginal people in his community and excellence in Aboriginal art.  

In 2011 he became the fourth person to ever receive the award of Freedom of the Shire of Muswellbrook. This is Muswellbrook Shire’s highest recognition, awarded to Uncle Les for his outstanding contribution to the communities of that area.    

In 2012 he was named Cessnock City’s Citizen of the Year.  

Uncle Les designed the Newcastle Knights Indigenous jerseys in 2009. In 2014 he assisted the successful bid by Cessnock City Council to host an Asian Cup team. Uncle Les’s hand painted boomerangs were sent to all 16 countries to invite teams to use Cessnock City as their base camp for the Asian Cup. Asia’s premier team, the Japanese Samurai Blue, took up the offer, and symbolically the boomerang brought the team back to Cessnock.  

In 2015 Uncle Les was awarded the major prize in the Weston Art Show.  

Uncle Les’s greatest achievements were in the use of his knowledge and skill in art to teach, empower and improve the lives of Aboriginal people in his community. He created understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and fostered collaboration, partnerships and friendships across cultural divides.   

Uncle Les gave himself tirelessly to culture, community and education, promoting reconciliation, bringing people together and helping the community better understand the importance of Australia’s Aboriginal Heritage.  

Sadly, Uncle Les Elvin passed away in August 2015.

In 2016 Uncle Les was honoured in an exhibition ‘I Won't Be Long: A Tribute to Les Elvin’ held in Cessnock Regional Art Gallery. 

The Uncle Les Elvin Award was established in 2016 as part of the annual Black Creek Aboriginal Corporation NAIDOC Awards, to celebrate a community member who display leadership, is motivational and instils and inspires positive cultural identity within the community.

The Korreil Wonnai Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group’s 2016 Kullaburra Awards were established to recognise the achievements of Aboriginal students within the local area.

For more information, listen to ABC's Meet the Mob interview with Uncle Les Elvin. 

Plaque location
49 Vincent Street, Cessnock (garden bed)