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Yijala visitors

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Yijala visitors get more than they bargained for

Last year, a group of visitors to the Museum got more than they bargained for one Saturday morning when they found themselves chatting to one of our friendly hosts. Although he was wearing the uniform, he was uncommonly well informed for his first day as a host. Not surprising really, when they found out that the host was our Director, Andrew Sayers, meeting the public and getting the feel of what it’s like to be ‘on the floor’ as a Visitor Services Host.

The visitors, from Roebourne, Western Australia, were in Canberra for a series of workshops, training and generally getting the best out of the city while they were here. Their project leader was Debra Myers, who I knew formerly as the art advisor at Ernabella Arts. I was happy to meet her and the group and to hear about their current digital project, ‘Yijala Yala’. Debra and Sonya Wilson, the leading community member of the group, told us what they thought about their visit.

Debra Myers states:

In September, four participants from the Yijala Yala Project based in Roebourne, WA visited Canberra to attend the AIATSIS Conference, Young and Old: Connecting Generations, and to meet some of the people they’ll be working with as part of the project’s cultural exchange program and touring theatre show, which will be in Canberra in 2013. Yijala Yala is a long term, multi arts project developed by Big hART and the community focused on cultural heritage conservation and skilling up young people to work in cultural tourism and management. Sonya is doing arts administration training with Big hART and Esther, Lilly and Ivy are a part of the leadership and digital media workshops, learning skills in communication, networking, photography and filmmaking.

While in Canberra, the group visited Parliament House, the National Film and Sound Archive, researched information about Roebourne at the AIATSIS audio visual archive, attended a performance of Namatjira at the Canberra Theatre, participated in a watercolour painting workshop with members of the Namatjira family and visited the National Museum of Australia’s Gallery of First Australians with Andy Greenslade, one of the Museum’s curators in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program. The girls especially loved making an announcement in the Goolarri Radio recording studio and Sonya enjoyed looking at the artefacts and hearing the recording of the Ernabella Choir.

In Sonya’s words: ‘I enjoyed going places before the conference, like to Parliament House, seeing the Museum, the gallery, [the National Film & Sound] archive and the watercolour workshop. My favourite one was the Museum. We had this lovely lady by the name of Andy who gave us a tour of the Museum. We got to see artefacts, story-telling, and heard the choir of the lovely ladies from Ernabella and all other kinds of things. We even had lunch there. There was nothing about Canberra I did not like!’

The Museum regularly receives visitors from Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities across Australia, and we also organise access visits to our collection storage areas so that people can visit objects representing their families and their cultures. For more information about collection visits please see Open collections.

Andy Greenslade, Curator, ATSIP