State Library acquires Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer collection

  • Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer is a Western Australian sporting legend
  • State Library purchased at auction a collection of documents and medals
  • Collection includes Farmer’s 1960 Sandover Medal, 1959 Simpson Medal and his MBE
  • The State Library of Western Australia has recently acquired its latest treasures, a valuable collection of Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer memorabilia. Farmer was an Australian Rules Football player and coach known for revolutionising ruckwork and handballing.

    The collection includes:

    • 1960 Sandover Medal – one of the three Sandover Medals he won in his football career, accompanied by a collection of congratulatory letters and telegrams to Farmer on his win;
    • 1959 Simpson Medal – with a letter from the East Perth Football Club congratulating him on winning the Medal for the 1959 Grand Final and for also winning the Club’s Best and Fairest;
    • 1971 Member of the British Empire medal – with certificate signed by Queen Elizabeth. Farmer was the first Australian footballer to receive a Queen’s honour; and
    • collection of archival materials covering Farmer’s life and career, including a 1977 telegraph to Farmer from the Premier, Charles Court, wishing the Western Australian side luck in the first State of Origin match which Farmer coached. 

    Born in WA, Farmer spent his childhood in Sister Kate’s orphanage as a member of the Stolen Generation.

    He began his football career with the East Perth Football Club in 1953 and his career in football is legendary, winning five premierships in the State’s competition, three Sandover Medals for fairest and best player and four Simpson Medals for best player in the Grand Final.

    Farmer believed that all Aboriginal children should be able to reach their potential and established the Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer Foundation to help young Aboriginal people follow their dreams.

    The Foundation is a member of the State Library’s Literacy Alliance, a group of government and non-government organisations working together to improve literacy in our communities.

    The State Library will preserve this important collection and keep it safe for future generations. Some of the items will be put on display once preservation work has been carried out.

    As stated by Culture and the Arts Minister David Templeman:

    “The last time I visited the State Library to inspect a new acquisition was for the letters of rock and roll legend Bon Scott. Polly Farmer was a very different man to Bon, but just as much a Western Australian legend.

    “These acquisitions demonstrate the efforts of our State Library to collect Western Australian stories, whether they be about the State’s social history, rock and roll, or in this case sport.

    “This is why the State Library is so important, it houses our most important and treasured memories.”

    As stated by Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray:

    “Polly Farmer was an exceptional footballer and an incredible Western Australian – who both changed the way football was played and inspired many young potential players and coaches, myself included, to get involved in the game.

    “While he was certainly an iconic athlete, Farmer ensured his legacy would transcend football by establishing the Graham “Polly” Farmer Foundation and transforming the lives of thousands of young Aboriginal people.

    “I am so pleased that by acquiring these pieces, the State Library has ensured memorabilia commemorating the legendary Graham “Polly” Farmer will be preserved for future generations.”

    Culture and Arts Minister’s Office – 6552 5400

    /Public Release. View in full here.