Renowned Bundjalung artist defied the odds
DIGBY Moran's story is one of going against the odds, says his son-in-law Glen Rhodes, as the family sought solace after the passing of the Bundjalung artist on Monday.
Digby was born in Ballina in 1948 and grew up on Cabbage Tree Island.
But back then, the world was a different place, and Mr Moran, as with other island residents, had to deal with what Mr Rhodes described as a "different rule" for indigenous Australians.
Digby went on to work in agriculture, and spent time as a boxer before completing a TAFE art course in 1991.
From there, he become an internationally-acclaimed artist, exhibiting his work from Lismore to Europe, but he never forgot where he came from.
"He was a proud Bundjalung man," Mr Rhodes said.
"He was very proud of growing up on Cabbage Tree Island.
"He had to overcome government interference, and that gave him strength."
Mr Rhodes said Digby had an expansive knowledge of his culture.
And the love of his culture was only superseded by the love of his three daughters and his son, along with his stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"He had love for his kids, always," Mr Rhodes said.
Digby was a regular visitor to local schools, and particularly Goonellabah Public School where Mr Rhodes works as a teacher.
The quietly spoken artist shared his work and shared his stories with students throughout the region.
"He inspired a lot of school kids," Mr Rhodes said.
"Students will remember him all across the Bundjalung nation and NSW.
"It (Digby's passing) is devastating."
Lismore Regional Gallery director Brett Adlington described Digby as a "humble person with a strong visual language".
Mr Adlington said it was appropriate that Digby had a strong connection in his work to the diamond pattern which is significant in Bundjalung culture.
He agreed Digby was indeed a gem to the art community on the Northern Rivers, and the broader community.
Mr Adlington said Digby became "one of the most significant artists on the Northern Rivers".
"Digby was, and is, an inspiration to younger indigenous people," he said.
"People could see the pathway that he took."
Mr Adlington said if residents of the Northern Rivers were asked to name one local artist, "Digby's name would be the one that would come up most regularly".
Digby was commissioned over the years to complete public artworks, particularly at Woolworths in River St, Ballina, and at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre.
Mr Adlington said that reflected Digby's strong connection to the broader community.
"The gallery is very saddened by the news (of Digby's passing) and we extend our condolences to his family," he said.
The board and staff of Arts Northern Rivers also released a statement saying they were "deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most significant Bundjalung artists and cultural elders of our region."