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National Museum to showcase Irish in Australia

17 MARCH 2010

The National Museum of Australia is developing a major exhibition on the Irish in Australia, to open on St Patrick's Day 2011.

The exhibition will cover the Irish presence in Australia from the day in January 1788 when a small number of Irish convicts, marines and officials walked off the transports of the First Fleet to the continuing arrival in our own time of young Irish backpackers.

"No one is quite sure of the precise percentage of the Australian population with some family connection to Ireland," said National Museum of Australia Senior Curator Richard Reid. "What is more certain is that down the years immediately after World War II, nearly a third of Australia's population had some Irish in them".

Great objects, large and small, will be at the core of the exhibition. The two-tonne, two-metre-high anchor from the wreck of the immigrant ship Nashwauk will recall the night in 1855 of the shipwreck off the South Australian coast when 207 young Irish women struggled through the surf to safety on Australian soil.

Objects from Ireland will include one of the few surviving copies of the proclamation of the Irish Republic pasted up in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916, a document that shook the foundations of the United Kingdom. The brutal suppression of the rebellion led Melbourne's Archbishop Daniel Mannix to his passionate opposition to conscription in World War I.

At times the Irish in Australia exhibition will vibrate to the sounds of the fiddle, flute accordion and 'bodhran' (Irish drum) as musicians, singers and dancers celebrate another great Irish contribution to Australian culture – music, song and dance.

A data base of more than 30,000 Irish convict arrivals to Sydney between 1788 and 1840 will allow visitors to trace their own convict ancestry.

Irish in Australia will open at the National Museum of Australia on 17 March, 2011 (St Patrick's Day) and later travel to Dublin, Ireland.


For more information contact Dennis Grant on 02 6208 5351 or 0409 916 481 or Mark Juddery, 02 6208 5338 or 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au.