Artist's dark mask over the past portrays Captain Cook as a crook

Australia was Stolen by Armed Robbery ... Jason Wing's piece installed as part of the 2012 Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize.

Andrew Taylor Sydney Morning Herald October 4, 2012

It's no surprise to find a bust of Captain James Cook gracing the halls of the NSW Parliament. But Jason Wing's artwork does not treat the English explorer credited with being the first European to land on Australia's east coast with reverence.

Wing's Australia was Stolen by Armed Robbery features a bust of Captain Cook wearing a black balaclava, pictured.

"Australia was stolen from the Aboriginal people by lethal force," he said.

Wing added the fate of indigenous people had deteriorated since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. "Racism and criminal behaviour by the Australian government is alive and well."

Wing's sculpture is one of 37 artworks by Aboriginal artists that were installed yesterday in Macquarie Street as part of the 2012 Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize.

It is one of several artworks that attack government policies towards indigenous people and the legitimacy of Australia's political institutions.

Adam Hill's Really Bin #1, a resin sculpture of a wheelie bin bearing the word "sorry", questions the sincerity of former prime minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations.

"The sorry kind of went out with the garbage," he said.

This year, 61 artists entered 136 works in the $40,000 prize, which was open to artists born or living in NSW.

The finalist works will be displayed in Parliament until November 4, the winner being announced on October 17.

Hill said it was ironic artworks critical of politicians would be displayed in the NSW Parliament. "Of course it is. It's hilarious," he said. "I take my hat off to the judges."

A judge of the prize, Nici Cumpston, said works like Wing's Australia was Stolen by Armed Robbery should be included in the prize, regardless of their content. "I think it's important that works aren't censored," she said.

The NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Victor Dominello, said the NSW Parliament was the ideal venue to display provocative artworks.

"These are challenging issues that are being portrayed by artists who have the right to express themselves freely," he said.