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Indigenous Australia

Special events to mark significant anniversaries

On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision, the National Museum of Australia joins the National Film and Sound Archive to pay tribute to and explore these key moments in our history.


Torres Strait mask

Evolution: Torres Strait Masks
National Museum of Australia
19 May – 23 July 2017, 9am – 5pm

Explore the longstanding importance of masks in Torres Strait culture and how they continue to influence contemporary art forms in this exhibition developed by the Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Thursday Island. More

Ray Peckham

A Change Is Gonna Come
National Museum of Australia
24 May 2017 – 30 January 2018, 9am – 5pm

Inspired by the 1964 civil rights song of the same name, this exhibition invites visitors to consider the 1967 referendum and the 1992 Mabo decision within the context of their time and through events that led to and followed these seminal moments. More

Events and film screenings

National Reconciliation Week family activities
National Museum of Australia
Saturday 27 May to Friday 2 June, 10am–12pm
Free. Bookings not required.

Celebrate National Reconciliation Week and learn more about Australia’s diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures through drawing activities and hands-on exploration of objects.

Christine Anu

Christine Anu in conversation and concert
National Film and Sound Archive, Arc Cinema
Friday 2 June, 7.15–9.30pm
Cost: $35. Bookings essential: trybooking

Enjoy a night of music, memories and conversation with acclaimed entertainer and broadcaster Christine Anu.

Don't miss a selection of special acoustic performances of songs from the Torres Strait, My Island Home and Sunshine on a Rainy Day!

A person weaving a basket

NAIDOC Week – Traditional weaving workshop
National Museum of Australia
Saturday 8 July, 10am–2pm
Free. Bookings not required

Kalkadoon woman Ronnie Jordan shares her knowledge to help create your own weaving inspired by the designs of the Kalkadoon people of north-west Queensland.

This hands-on workshop empowers participants through a sense of connection and the opportunity to learn an age-old skill.

Indigenous Milestones Revisited
National Film and Sound Archive
Weekdays in May, 9am – 5pm
Free. Bookings not required.

The NFSA is screening documentaries, television and newsreel coverage from before and after the 1967 referendum and the High Court of Australia’s groundbreaking Mabo decision in 1992.

Eddie Mabo

Mabo: Life of an Island Man,2012, 87mins (G)
National Film and Sound Archive, Arc cinema
Wednesday 5 July, 7­–9pm
Free. Bookings essential: trybooking

Join filmmaker Dr Trevor Graham and Eddie's Mabo's daughter, Gail, as they discuss this documentary and the legacy of Mabo.

Presented in association with the National Museum.

A man in a desert holding a young Aboriginal boy.

People of the Western Desert (1965–69, M)
National Film and Sound Archive
Friday 21 July, 6.30–9pm and
Saturday 22 July,  4–6.30pm
Free. Bookings essential: trybooking

In the 1960s the Commonwealth Film Unit commissioned filmmaker Ian Dunlop to capture a scientific record of the traditional life of Aboriginal people in the Western Desert of Australia. He and the crew spent five years on the films.

Ian joins us on Friday for a discussion about his experiences and the legacy of the films, followed on Saturday by a screening of the entire series.

This new 4K digital series remaster is presented with the National Archives of Australia.

Defining Moments

The National Museum’s Defining Moments in Australian History project features key moments in the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Browse a selection here, with many more to follow.

The seven people named stand in front of a wood-panelled wall in what looks like Old Parliament House.
Indigenous referendum
1967: Indigenous referendum
photo collage of Aboriginal cricketers
Aboriginal cricket team
1868: Aboriginal cricket team tours England
Australian Aborigines Slaughtered by Convicts, by Phiz, The Book of Remarkable Trials, 1840; Chronicles of Crime V. II, 1841
Myall Creek massacre
1838: Myall Creek massacre, New South Wales

View more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defining moments

Presented in partnership with

National Film and Sound Archive