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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Goolarri: The sounds of Broome
Photo: Dean McNicoll.
This display looks at the work of Goolarri Media Enterprises of Broome, Western Australia. It features an interactive recording studio, with film and audio from some of the regions' finest Aboriginal artists and performers, including the Pigram Brothers, Gubinge, Fitzroy Express, Lorrae Coffin, Scrap Metal, Kerrianne Cox and Mervyn Mulardy. The studio lets you audition as a volunteer announcer and, at the end of your session, hear your broadcast played back to you.
Photo: George Serras.
Aboriginal breastplates are cross-cultural historical items and illustrate a dimension of Aboriginal-white relations from colonial times until well into the twentieth century.
From the early nineteenth century colonial authorities gave engraved and stamped breastplates to important Aboriginal elders. They were used as rewards for various reasons such as saving the lives of non-Indigenous people, for faithful service and to recognise individual stockmen and trackers. Plates were often engraved with the name of the person and their group, identifying them and their status.
The National Museum of Australia holds one of the largest public collections of breastplates. This display features some of the breastplates in the Museum's collection.
This is my grandfather watching the Macassans land, about 1977 by Shane Namurki. Photo: National Museum of Australia.
This display features a display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's drawings of contact with Macassan fishermen. Most of these drawings are from a large collection commissioned for the Aboriginal Arts Board's 1977 publication The Aboriginal Children's History of Australia. The collection illustrates the diversity of young peoples' experiences and observations across Australia.
Feathered head ornament used at the 75th anniversary of the Coniston Massacre, 2003. National Museum of Australia. Photo: Lannon Harley.
This display presents four stories of Indigenous resistance to British occupation of Australia since 1770. Occupation affected different regions at different times, but in all parts of Australia Indigenous peoples' lives changed profoundly. Settlers attempted to impose new social and religious orders. Lives and land were taken. New animals, plants and diseases were introduced. Indigenous people responded in a variety of ways. Some fought back with weapons; others developed alternative strategies to survive this new and hostile presence. Today, Australia's Indigenous people celebrate the legacy of that resistance – a thriving Indigenous identity and culture.
Albert 'Alby' Clark
Photo: George Serras.
In 2002, at the age of 67, Albert 'Alby' Clark completed a bicycle ride from Perth to Warrnambool, Victoria – a distance of more than 3000 kilometres – to promote reconciliation, sport and fitness. Alby was born and raised at Framlingham Aboriginal settlement in Victoria. He is a Gunditjmara elder in the Warrnambool community. This display features a bicycle outfit Alby wore during the journey.
Mayor Edward 'Ted' Simpson
Photo: George Serras.
This display profiles some of the achievements of Edward Simpson (1944–2007).
In 2004 when Simpson was appointed mayor of Brewarrina, New South Wales, he became the first Aboriginal person to be elected mayor in that state. Simpson's political career began in the 1960s in the shearing sheds of rural Australia. He went on to become involved in Aboriginal politics and worked for organisations such as the Aboriginal Development Commission and the Aboriginal Legal Service. From 1977 he spent eight years on the National Aboriginal Conference, advising the prime minister and various governments on Aboriginal issues.