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First Australians: Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Gallery of First Australians)

The Gallery of First Australians represents the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia as required by Section 5 of the National Museum of Australia Act 1980, and incorporates historical collections and exhibitions.

To improve audience understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, the Gallery of First Australians presents stories, objects and images that explore the culture and experiences of Indigenous Australians from time immemorial, through colonisation to contemporary Australian life.

In 2009–10 module redevelopments and changeovers of objects occurred in the 'Losing our children' area of the gallery.

From Little Things Big Things Grow, an exhibition on the Indigenous civil rights movement between the 1920s and 1970s (developed by the Museum), and Tayenebe, an exhibition of fibre craft by Tasmanian women artists (developed by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) were both displayed in the Gallery of First Australians Focus Gallery.

Research continued for the redevelopment of several exhibits planned to open in 2010–11.

Old New Land: Australia's People and Environment

Old New Land presents an environmental history of Australia. It examines the history of Australian attitudes to the environment, looking at the relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the land and the adaptation of settlers from Britain and Europe to the continent's diverse environments. The gallery also explores the personal and emotional attachments of people to the great range of Australian landscapes and places.

Eternity: Stories from the Emotional Heart of Australia

Eternity examines the lives of 50 Australians, famous and not famous, living and dead. The gallery uses these life stories to highlight larger moments, movements, events and themes in Australian history. The gallery's display is based on emotions such as joy, hope, passion and fear, and experiences such as loneliness, mystery, thrill, devotion, separation and chance. This year, seven new life stories were installed in the gallery, all of which were supported by new multimedia.

These included:

  • Weary Dunlop and the fears of a Japanese prisoner of war
  • Frida Dakiz and the hopes of a migrant and small business owner
  • Tom Sonter unravelling the mystery of the Southern Cloud aeroplane crash
  • John McDouall Stuart and the loneliness of an inland explorer
  • Jean Cook, who survived the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1915 but was permanently separated from her family.

Nation: Symbols of Australia

Nation was closed in February 2010 and all collections and exhibition furniture was de-installed and stored or disposed of as appropriate. Nation will be replaced by Landmarks: People and Places across Australia, which will open in mid-2011 (see Museum development).

Australian Journeys

Australian Journeys explores the passages of people to, from and across Australia. The gallery, which opened early in 2009, traces the ways in which migrants and travellers have made homes in Australia and overseas, and have built and maintained connections between here and abroad. It is the first permanent gallery to be renewed since the Museum opened in 2001.

The gallery includes significant purchases made by the Museum, including the First Fleet table, made of beefwood collected near Port Jackson for First Fleet Surgeon-General John White in the early 1790s; and a rich collection associated with Captain James Cook, including Cook's plane table surveying frame, a striking marble bust and a copy of Banks' Florilegium. Other highlights from the Museum's collection include a motion picture camera used by Frank Hurley in Antarctica, a wall-hanging depicting Little Red Riding Hood that was given to an Australian aid worker in a displaced persons camp in Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War, and tokens engraved and left behind in Britain by convicts transported to the Australian colonies.

Gallery objects de-installed and installed

Gallery Objects de-installed Objects installed
First Australians 31 4
Old New Land 5 2
Eternity 16 16
Nation 502 Nil (Gallery closed) Feb 2010
Australian Journeys 22 12
Total 576 34