Skip to content
  • 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission
  • Shop

21 March 2024

National Museum of Australia acquired over 400 artworks in partnership with Indigenous Art Centre Alliance

The third and final instalment of the Belonging exhibition series showcasing vivid and diverse artworks by First Nations artists from Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait is now on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

This final instalment in the Belonging series features 85 works by 39 artists from Yalanji Arts in Mossman Gorge, Wei’Num Arts in Weipa, Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre in Pormpuraaw and Bana Yirriji Art Centre in Wujal Wujal. The dynamic works capture stories of daily life, cultural knowledge and the enduring connection to Country.

The exhibition completes the artistic journey through Far North Queensland, including a trip into sea Country and a surprising encounter with glow-in-the-dark creatures.

More than 100 emerging and established artists from Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait took part in the Belonging project, involving art centres from across the region and facilitated by the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA). They experimented with new materials and techniques, creating a collection of artworks that represents the vibrant and innovative creativity of First Nations artists and explores what it means to belong.

The National Museum acquired the collection of 415 artworks created by 103 artists working in 11 art centres across the region: Bana Yirriji Art Centre, Girringun Art Centre, Hopevale Arts and Cultural Centre, Mornington Island Art, Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre, Wik and Kugu Arts Centre, Yalanji Arts, Yarrabah Arts and Cultural Precinct, Wei’Num Arts, Badhulgaw Kuthinaw Mudh/Badu Art Centre and Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Arts (Moa Arts). The art centres span a vast geographical area, from coral reefs to rainforest, encompassing both sides of Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands.

National Museum director Katherine McMahon said she is delighted by the acquisition of the collection.

‘The Museum is thrilled to be supporting emerging artists and art practices in communities through the acquisition of this diverse collection,’ Ms McMahon said.

‘The acquisition allows the Museum to strengthen its connection to Country and First Nations artists and support professional development opportunities in communities,’ Ms McMahon said.

National Museum curator Catherine Czerw said, ‘Created by artists working across Far North Queensland, and from emerging artists to national award winners, each work reflects the rich and complex experiences of First Nations people.

‘Traditional knowledge, language, cultural responsibilities and personal connection are interwoven with artistic expression and experimentation. These artists’ stories show us how memories and past experiences shape those of the present, often revealing complex and moving concepts of belonging,’ Ms Czerw said.

‘We are taken on a journey exploring complex narratives, as ancestral stories merge with contemporary life and the ongoing effects of colonisation, mission life, mining and tourism converge on Country. When encountered at the Museum as part of a larger, often untold, story of Australia, the Belonging project reminds us that art has an enduring capacity to bridge gaps in empathy, connectedness and understanding created by our diverse and often divergent histories,’ Ms Czerw said.

The first iteration of the Belonging: Stories from Far North Queensland exhibition, featuring 120 works by 29 artists from Hope Vale, Yarrabah, Moa Island and Mornington Island, was on display from July 2022 until 12 February 2023.

The second instalment of the exhibition, featuring 92 works by 31 artists from Aurukun, Badu Island and Cardwell, was on display from 2 March 2023 until 18 February 2024.

The Belonging collection celebrates the freedom that comes with artistic experimentation and the unexpected joy of discovering new stories from Far North Queensland’s dynamic art scene.


Since 2012 the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA) has supported, trained, promoted and advocated for First Nations art centres in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait. IACA has supported the National Museum of Australia to present the exhibition, Belonging: Stories from Far North Queensland in Canberra.

To accompany the exhibition and to coincide with its 10th anniversary, IACA produced a companion publication, Belonging: Stories from Far North Queensland, chronicling the works of art, the artists and the art centres of the Far North Queensland region. Slated to become a seminal text of contemporary Indigenous artmaking in Far North Queensland, the publication is an important companion to the exhibition and a significant record of the recent history of Queensland art centres.

Yalanji Arts, Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge is a place of natural wonder and ancient beauty. Nestled into the rainforest and overlooked by mountains, the crystal-clear waters of the Mossman River cascade over granite boulders into swimming holes. It is part of the traditional lands of the Kuku Yalanji people and the Daintree National Park, and a popular destination for national and international tourists.

Yalanji Arts is located in the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community, not far from the cultural centre where artists exhibit and sell their works — textiles, ceramics, traditional artefacts and paintings. Surrounded by an abundance of rainforest flora and fauna, the artists have a distinct, contemporary style that is influenced by their environment and their culture. As part of the Belonging project, they experimented with earth pigments, and were encouraged to share their stories and their connection to Country.

Wei’Num Arts, Weipa

Weipa sits on the lands of the Alngith people, on the west coast of Cape York. The town was built by Comalco in the 1960s to support the bauxite mining industry and is now a busy regional centre. The nearby communities of Mapoon and Napranum grew from Presbyterian missions that were established in the 1890s. Home to a diverse group of traditional owners, the region boasts abundant wildlife and plentiful fishing along a coastline set alight by stunning sunsets.

Wei’Num Arts is a collaborative arts hub for Weipa, Mapoon and Napranum. Artists produce paintings, prints, textiles and shell jewellery but, for the Belonging project, wanted to explore photography. Eager to learn and experiment, the artists found new and creative ways of expressing their ideas and telling their stories.

Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre, Pormpuraaw

Pormpuraaw is surrounded by sea, savannah and coastal wetlands. Known as the Edward River Mission from 1938 to 1987, it is the traditional home of the Thaayorre and Mungkan peoples, and borders the lands of the Kugu and Wik peoples. The Pormpuraaw Land and Sea Rangers are an important part of the community, managing feral animals, protecting sea turtles and removing marine debris such as discarded fishing nets, known as ghost nets.

Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre was established in 2011. The artists favour painting, printing, carving and weaving and share their rich culture through their works. For the Belonging project, they experimented with fluorescent paint, inspired by the marine bioluminescence found in the nearby waters.

Bana Yirriji Art Centre, Wujal Wujal

Wujal Wujal is a small community on the Bloomfield River, south of Cooktown. Established in the 1880s as the Bloomfield River Mission, it was officially renamed in 1980 and became an autonomous council five years later. Named for the nearby waterfalls that are sacred to the local Yalanji, Jalunji and Nyungkul people, Wujal Wujal is surrounded by spectacular mountains and rainforest.

Bana Yirriji Art Centre, on the banks of the river and not far from the waterfalls, is a meeting place for bama (local people). The artists have strong salt and freshwater connections and a proud history of cultural practices that include ceremonial body painting, weaving, and shield making and decorating. They draw on traditional knowledge but experiment with different styles and share stories about the issues their community faces today.

Belonging: Stories from Far North Queensland is in the Focus Gallery at the National Museum of Australia until 10 March 2025.

Photos can be downloaded here: Belonging III Exhibition | National Museum of Australia – Photos

Media contact: Matthew Heap – 02 6208 5148 / 0459 949 172 or

Return to Top