Return to Sender
Karla Dickens
Karla Dickens, Return to Sender, 2022
Photo: Zan Wimberley
Caution Note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that Return to Sender contains images of deceased persons. The work includes images and themes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples may find sensitive and distressing.


Return to sender — the weather is here, wish you were nice
Colonial Post Service delivers
some have a numbered mailbox out front
checking for letters, bills, or a postcard
others live under a tarp, tin, or a tree
the Queen’s stamp postmarked 

Wish you were here
some wish they weren’t
just a quick note to say hi
genocide greetings with catchy captions
the mailer is now the jailer  

Postman with history haunting mailbags
carrying Australian snapshot souvenirs
senseless messages from the Smiths to the Joneses
when picture postcards don’t need for a word
conjuring loving hate mail 

There’ll be no cheques in the mail
waiting on snail mail to deliver unseen sorries
are they as deaf as the post — I listen
I hear — metal chainmail from new poison pens
now sent via email 

Return to sender

Words by Karla Dickens


In a show of pride and defiance, Return to Sender reworks a collection of found postcards picturing First Nations people from the turn of last century. Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens confronts these racist greetings with messages of strength and survival. Calling out the persistence of racial violence in contemporary life, Return to Sender is a call for resistance.

On 29 December 2021 Karla Dickens released the following statement with regard to the inclusion of her work Return to Sender within the 2022 Sydney Festival Program:

As a First Nations artist of Australia I withdraw my work Return to Sender from the 2022 Sydney Festival program in protest at the negligence and complete disregard of cultural safety and duty of care on the part of the Festival with regard to participating artists, including myself. Return to Sender was installed before I was made aware of any of the Festival’s funding partnerships.


Withdrawn from Sydney Festival 2022


6 January –
30 January 2022

Project Director:

Daniel Mudie Cunningham


Aarna Fitzgerald Hanley