The Encounters Fellowships Program is a legacy of the 2015 exhibition Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum, produced by the National Museum of Australia in partnership with the British Museum.
During consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in preparation for the exhibition, people identified a need for remote and regional community cultural practitioners to:
- have greater access to national and international museum collections and the information they hold about Indigenous communities and histories
- establish networks between Indigenous communities and cultural institutions in Australia and overseas
- learn how institutions manage cultural heritage materials
- develop and strengthen skills and knowledge in museum practices through hands-on experiences.
Additionally, the National Museum of Australia recognised a need to:
- acknowledge and respect Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights, locally and globally
- appreciate and value connections between Indigenous people and their material culture held in museum collections
- provide access to collections to facilitate knowledge transmission
- assist Australian Indigenous cultural practitioners to contribute to and engage with other First Nations peoples
- acknowledge that Indigenous communities’ engagement with museum collections is not only important to understanding their history, but also plays an integral role in shaping their futures
- create opportunities to access collections for both personal and professional reasons and to build on the Museum’s knowledge of the collection.
The Encounters Fellowships Program has been designed in response to these recommendations.
Cultural Connections Initiative
The Encounters Fellowships Program is a professional development opportunity for emerging and mid-career Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the cultural, heritage or creative sectors.
Through tailored programs at the National Museum of Australia and partner institutions in Canberra, Sydney and the United Kingdom, fellows will receive mentoring, learn new skills and build networks in the cultural institutions sector. During these programs, fellows will be paid a stipend and receive an allowance for all associated travel costs. The program will support fellows to research, design and develop a project plan or business case for a project that reinvigorates culture or cultural practice.
As part of the National Museum of Australia’s centre for Indigenous Knowledge, the Encounters Fellowships Program is a cornerstone of the Museum’s Cultural Connections Initiative, an outreach program that enhances the capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners, organisations, and communities in 16 locations across Australia.
Encounters Fellowship Program Today
In 2018 the program was extended. It is now comprised of the Cultural Connection Initiative and a revised Fellowship Program, which connects with individual cultural practitioners and organisations in 16 locations across Australia.
These two complimentary programs support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, organisations and communities to manage, maintain, interpret and share their own cultures and histories. They also invest in community-led projects which reinforce cultural heritage aspirations.
Both programs — which are determined and then co-designed with our partners — enable important cultural knowledge transmission. Their investment in skills and professional development, employment, and relevant community projects, also contributes to making strong and sustainable communities.
The Museum and our allied partners greatly benefit from the new understandings and learnings that emerge from these programs. This creates tangible cultural heritage and creative industry platforms that show Indigenous cultural diversity to the world.