Australian Museum

For over 190 years the Australian Museum has been at the forefront of Australian scientific research, collection, and education. Australia’s first public museum was established in Sydney in 1827 and today the Museum has over 21 million cultural and scientific objects in its collection as it continues its roles in research and education.

In 2021, The Balnaves Foundation supported the Australian Museum’s landmark First Nations exhibition Unsettled, with funding from the Foundation ensuring entry was free to the public. Curated by Laura McBride, Director, First Nations and Dr Mariko Smith, Manager, First Nations Collections & Engagement; Unsettled was a ground-breaking First Nations-led and informed exhibition recognising Indigenous responses to the legacy of colonisation. Informed by extensive community consultation, Unsettled uncovered the untold histories behind this nation’s foundation story.

In this powerful exhibition, First Nations voices revealed the hidden stories of devastation, survival and the fight for recognition. These first-hand accounts were presented through long hidden historical documents, large-scale artworks, immersive experiences and never-before-seen objects from the Australian Museum collections and beyond.

At the 2021 IMAGinE Awards the Australian Museum and Laura McBride were awarded two of the top prizes for Unsettled. Named Winner for Exhibition Project, Large Museums; and also receiving the ACHAA Award for Excellence by an Aboriginal Curator; the IMAGinE awards recognised the breadth of curatorial research and the quality, scale and creativity of the Unsettled exhibition.

Unsettled  closed in late January 2022, and is now available online as a virtual tour. You can explore the online exhibition here.

Barka: The Forgotten River, is another exhibition putting First Nations stories at the forefront. Developed by artist, activist and Barkandji Elder Uncle Badger Bates and artist Justine Muller with the Barkandji community, the exhibition originally premiered at the Broken Hill Regional Gallery in 2018. The Australian Museum’s presentation expands on the size, scale, content, interpretation, and impact by adding scientific concepts and communication.

Barka: The Forgotten River focuses on the stories, culture and people who depend on the Barka (the Darling River) as a life source, and tells these stories through multidisciplinary works including ceramics, leadlight, lino print, wood and steel sculpture, painting, and a multi-media installation.

As with Unsettled, the support from the Foundation ensures this important exhibition is free to the public. Barka: The Forgotten River is on at the Australian Museum until 23 July 2023. For more information click here.