The Australian Museum, established in 1827 in Sydney, was Australia’s first public museum and has continued this legacy with a focus on scientific research, collection and education. Recently, the Museum has undergone significant renovation and reopened free to the public in November 2020.

Curated by Laura McBride, appointed Director, First Nations in March 2021, and Dr Mariko Smith, First Nations Assistant Curator, Unsettled presents a First Nations led exhibition that recognises Indigenous responses to the legacy of colonisation. It is primarily a story of the denial of sovereignty, frontier wars, seizing of land and the ultimate displacement of peoples, juxtaposing colonial era items such as stock whips with cultural items such as Dilly Bags.

Unsettled is informed by extensive community consultation through Laura’s past role in The 2020 Project, which aimed to understand what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders wanted to highlight in response to the 250th anniversary of Captain Cooks surveying of Australia’s east coast. There were more than 800 formal responses of which over 50% wanted emphasis placed on colonisation and its effects, Australia’s origin and foundation, and addressing the falsely constructed history shared by society. It aims to address the fact that we often live in a legacy of the past and without full truth telling Indigenous relationships with people and history remain ‘unsettled’. Under the curatorship of McBride and Smith, the exhibition has allowed Indigenous Australians a platform in order to control the narrative.

Unsettled shines the spotlight on the importance of museums to act as a place for an impartial presentation of history and of further education. The exhibition is supported by a sound educational program with panels and cultural workshops to be run in tandem with the exhibition, including Aboriginal meditation, weaving and education tours for school aged children. The Museum also offers tours led by First Nation guides which adds immense value to the exhibition for visitors allowing members of the public to have a deeper understanding and immersion in this issue.

Unsettled has now be extended until late January 2022 and is free to visit.

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Director, First Nations, Laura McBride discussing Unsettled on 7.30, ABC TV – 18 May 2021