WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Here you can take a virtual tour of the displays and read more information about the stories found in the First Australians gallery.
The upper level of the gallery features a rich array of exhibitions about specific Indigenous communities. The lower level of the gallery focuses on aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history since 1788.
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The Fishtrap Place: Weaving together people, land and belief (Anbarra)
Photo: Gerald Preiss.
This display features a fishtrap made by Anbarra elder Frank Gurrmanamana and an audiovisual piece showing the making of the fishtrap. The fishtrap is woven from the rainforest vine mirlal. The Anbarra are a group of coastal people whose traditional lands are on the northern coast of Australia in central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
Tasmania: We're here
Photo: George Serras.
We're Here is named after a poem by Tasmanian Aboriginal elder Phyllis Pitchford. The Tasmanian display presents the vibrancy of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture through a collection of contemporary works.
On show are traditional crafts with a modern take, including kelp armour crafted by Vicki West as a comment on Aboriginal resilience and the traditional use of kelp for carrying water. Kangaroo skin drums, paintings, shell necklaces and poetry also reinforce the message that Tasmanian Aboriginal culture is ongoing.
Photo: Judith Hickson.
This display draws on the Museum's rich holdings of material from Ernabella. Ernabella Arts is located in Pukatja, 440 kilometres southest of Alice Springs, just below the Northern Territory border in South Australia. It is one of Australia's longest continuously running Aboriginal arts organisations.
Tools: Stone and fire
Photo: Dean McNicoll.
For thousands of years Aboriginal people have skilfully utilised stone and fire as effective tools. The First Australians gallery features an extensive range of tools used by Aboriginal people. It demonstrates how these tools were made and the different techniques used to make them.
Tools: Kimberley points
Photo: National Museum of Australia.
The Kimberley points display features the Museum's collections of these highly-prized tools and trade goods. Spearheads made in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia have been found 1400 kilometres away. Since Europeans arrived in the region the points have also been crafted from ceramic telegraph insulators and bottle glass. Aboriginal people were quick to realise the advantages: metal, glass and ceramics are easier to work with, give a very sharp edge and need less resharpening.
Tools: Making stone tools
Photo: Dean McNicoll.
This display features the different types of stone and techniques that Aboriginal people have used to produce different types of stone tools.
Stone-tool makers have a detailed knowledge of the properties of different types of stone, and how to work each one. They use four techniques: grinding (rubbing two stones against each other), hammer-dressing (gently tapping one stone with another), percussion flaking (striking one stone with another) and pressure flaking (pressing a wood or bone tool against the edge of a stone to remove small flakes).