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The Encounters Fellowships Program acknowledges the value of museum collections in illuminating the past and shaping the future, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Learn about the program's aims, outcomes, activities and benefits.

Aims and outcomes

The fellowships aim to build on the experience of Indigenous cultural practitioners by providing opportunities to work with cultural institutions and bring their particular histories and perspectives to a broader audience.

Fellows will contribute to important conversations about how cultural institutions collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and collections.

Fellows will have access to the cultural heritage held in a range of museums, galleries, archives and universities; learn about museum processes and practices; and engage with a variety of mentors, advisors and practitioners.

Through placements at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra and partner cultural institutions, fellows will be supported and encouraged to strengthen their professional networks and leadership skills.

The program will support fellows to research, design and develop a project plan that reinvigorates culture and cultural practice in their area of interest and within their own community.


Enlightenment collection, British Museum, London

The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London

Graduation ceremony, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Aboriginal Memorial, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Conservation visit, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Conservation visit, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

British Museum tour, London

Cambridge University

Fellows with staff at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University

The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London

Reception for the 2016 Encounters fellows at Australia House, London

Program outline

The 12-week program offers hands-on engagement across an eight-month period and includes significant blocks of time spent in Canberra, Sydney and the United Kingdom as well as in the fellows’ communities. The 2019 program ran from April to November.

The program is built around three core themes: collections, capabilities and connections.


Cultural institutions such as museums, galleries, archives and universities are the custodians of rich and diverse collections of Indigenous art, artefacts and histories. Following consultation and necessary approvals with community elders and family, fellows will access a range of collections that have the capacity to rekindle connections with their community’s and their family’s ancestral past.encounters.

Similarly, institutions have much to learn from Indigenous custodians who can bring new information to light. Through access to the resources and collections of partner institutions, both nationally and internationally, fellows will gain insights into the cultures and knowledge systems of First Nations peoples globally.


The fellowships program offers an opportunity for fellows to build competences in a range of activities and skills relevant to working in the cultural sector. A series of training workshops and hands-on experiences will expose fellows to a variety of skills, professional practices and knowledge systems including collection management, research, exhibition development, audience engagement, studio art practices, new media technologies, multi-platform storytelling, project design and management, public speaking and leadership approaches.


The fellowships program is founded on ‘two-way’ learning and exchange, with opportunities for museum and cultural sector professionals to learn from the fellows. Fellows will share their unique perspectives and engage with mentors, advisors and cultural practitioners both in Australia and overseas, expanding their vision, knowledge and global networks to forge new partnerships and possibly future collaborations. In addition, the program will encourage stronger connections and knowledge-sharing between fellows — past and present — their elders and their communities.

Community project

A central requirement of the Encounters Fellowship Program is that fellows propose and develop a project plan or business case relevant to their area of interest. Applicants must demonstrate how their project will address at least one of the following:

  • educate audiences (locally and globally)
  • build capabilities of local community members
  • foster cultural continuity
  • revitalise culture and cultural practices.

It is not expected that the proposed project be fully undertaken and completed during the time span of the program. What is expected, however, is that fellows complete the research and preparation necessary for a viable plan or business case for a relevant art, cultural or heritage project. The fellowships program provides the opportunity to explore, research and test various planning aspects, with support from a range of experienced program mentors and advisors.

Projects from previous fellowships have included:

  • establishing a language preservation project using digital storytelling featuring elders and young people
  • developing a keeping place or cultural centre
  • using historical Indigenous designs to inform contemporary artworks.

2019 activities

Fellows will increase their knowledge of a wide range of museum, gallery and cultural sector practices through hands-on experiences and ‘learning by doing’ training. This includes:

  • learning how to research diverse collections
  • going behind-the-scenes of major collecting institutions to access cultural and ancestral heritage materials
  • meeting professionals in the business of storytelling, from curating to digital storytelling, and including marketing, publishing and social media
  • accessing an array of specialists to learn about museum-led practices and processes such as conservation, registration and curation
  • shadowing specialists to plan an exhibition or discuss approaches to interpretative educational programming
  • connecting with international First Nations professionals
  • experimenting in studio arts practice
  • engaging with leaders in the cultural, heritage and creative sectors, including those concerned with Indigenous design thinking, grassroots leadership and community development approaches
  • acquiring skills in project planning, management and delivery methods relevant to project goals, including pitching ideas and fundraising
  • accessing media training and techniques to improve public speaking
  • receiving continual guidance from mentors and specialists throughout the program.


The total support package is valued at around $60,000. Fellows receive these financial benefits:

  • a stipend of $1000 per week for 12 weeks
  • accommodation and daily travel allowance (for each day away from home).

Fellows receive these non-financial benefits:

  • an exceptional professional development program in the cultural, heritage and creative sector
  • development and enhancement of skills, leadership abilities and self-confidence
  • practical project management support towards the delivery of the nominated project
  • opportunities to build a national and international professional network in the cultural institution sector that benefits the fellow, their employer and their community.


Generosity and the sharing of knowledge between fellows and participating cultural institutions are key principles of the Encounters Fellowships Program.

After program completion, fellows will join the Encounters fellowships alumni and continue to share their experiences with other fellows — past, present and future — and the National Museum of Australia, cultural sector audiences and cultural practitioners from other communities. Fellows are encouraged to remain engaged in supporting the program, possibly as advisors to future fellows.


The Museum recognises the intense commitment required of fellows during the program and acknowledges the powerful emotional aspects of reconnecting with cultural heritage. Fellows’ wellbeing will be supported by the Museum and program staff, specialists and mentors, as well as the fellows’ own community of elders, family and employers. Fellows will also have access to professional counselling services as required.

Contact us
Phone: Simon Goode, Program Coordinator, +61 2 6208 5178
Ethan Williams, Cultural Connections Coordinator, +61 2 6208 5097
Carly Davenport Acker, Cultural Connections Program Manager, +61 2 6208 5042
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