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10 March 2009

The lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were profoundly changed by the arrival of British colonists in 1788. The National Museum of Australia presents four powerful stories about Aboriginal resistance on the colonial frontier in a new display.

'This display tells the stories of the way some Aboriginal communities navigated the confusing the often dangerous time of the occupation of their countries by another people and culture.' said Jay Arthur, Curator with the National Museum's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program.

Descendants of some of the Indigenous Australians whose stories are represented in the display travelled from Queensland and the Northern Territory to Canberra to see the display and shared some of their ancestors' stories.

Yagan (c.1795-1833) challenged the occupation of his land and was betrayed in death, after which his body was brutally decapitated, preserved and taken to England as a scientific curio. Fanny Balbuk (1840-1907), was renowned for protesting about the occupation of her traditional land and is admired in the Noongar community of Western Australia. Bilin Bilin (c. 1820-1901), a prominent leader of the Yugambeh people of south east Queensland is remembered by his community for his efforts to maintain culture and identity in the face of the British occupation of his country.

The display also tells the story of the 1928 Coniston Massacre, a violent and unjust series of events in central Australia in which over 60 Aboriginal people died. Memories of these events still resonate with Aboriginal people today. The Massacre provides one example of the violence which often accompanied the spread of colonial settlement in Australia.

Resistance Stories is on display in the Gallery of First Australians at the National Museum of Australia, for more information visit:

For interviews, images and more information please contact Caroline Vero on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or

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