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Exhibition highlights

WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Fascinating objects

From Little Things Big Things Grow includes some fascinating objects from the National Museum's National Historical Collection. Many have never been exhibited before. Highlights include:

Portrait showing an Aboriginal man with a long white beard, wearing a long black coat. Numerous white toy skeletons are pinned to the coat. The man's face is visible only from the nose down.

Portrait of Anthony Martin Fernando
by Raj Nagi

A portrait of an unknown Indigenous Australian activist, Anthony Martin Fernando, who took Aboriginal protest to London in the 1920s. Standing outside London's Australia House in his skeleton-decorated coat, his cry was: 'This is what the Australian government has done to my people'.

As there are no known photographs of Fernando, the artist did not include the whole face in this imagined portrait.

Right: Raj Nagi's portrait of Anthony Martin Fernando. Reprographer: George Serras.

Yirrkala bark petition

One of four 'Yirrkala bark petitions' prepared by the Yolngu Elders in 1963. The petitions called for Indigenous land rights to be recognised and for there to be no mining on Yolngu land.

Two of the petitions were presented to Australia's Commonwealth Parliament. They were the first documents accepted by Parliament which incorporated Indigenous ways of representing relationships to land. This petition was presented to The Honourable Gordon Bryant MP.

Bill Onus' Australian Aborigines League banner

The League was an important Aboriginal protest organisation and this very rare 1940s protest banner reads: 'The voice of the Aborigine must be heard'.

Collection database record - banner

Indigenous voices

The exhibition has a strong focus on Indigenous voices. Contemporary interviews, quotes and archival film footage allow visitors to learn about this important period in Australian history with the benefit of Indigenous perspectives.

Joan Winch
Joan Winch. Photo: Jeremy Lucas.

Compelling personal stories

From Little Things Big Things Grow features captivating contemporary interviews with Indigenous Australians who experienced the injustices of this period. Uncover their harrowing personal stories of discrimination and survival.

One of the many moving stories is Joan Winch's childhood recollection of having to win a running race twice because she was Indigenous.

Listen to Joan's story 'Twice as good, just to get to first base'
(MPEG4 3.4mb)
duration 1:32

Read transcript

View more personal stories

Early voices of protest

The exhibition features footage of Aboriginal elder Joe Anderson, also known as 'King Burraga'. In 1933 he was filmed declaring a plan to petition the King of England, and calling for equal rights and justice for Indigenous Australians:

King Burraga
From the 1933 footage of 'King Burraga'.

'150 years ago the Aboriginals owned Australia and today, he demands more than the white man's charity. He wants the right to live!'

Joe Anderson, 'King Burraga' September 1933

View the 1933 footage of 'King Burraga' (MPEG4 1.7mb)duration 0:40.
Cinesound Movietone Productions, Thought Equity Motion.
Courtesy: Ronin Films.

Insider footage

From Little Things Big Things Grow gives visitors the opportunity to view original footage from the 1965 Freedom Ride, taken by one of the Freedom Riders, James Spigelman.

The Freedom Riders, a group of Sydney University students, travelled around rural New South Wales targeting sites of discrimination. One of the sites was the Ray-Mond Theatre in Bowraville. Like many other Australian cinemas, this venue provided wooden seats for Indigenous patrons and plush seats for others. Some of these seats are now on display for the very first time in this exhibition.

Two men holding signs. The words 'END SEGREGATION HERE' is visible on one of the signs.
From James Spigelman's footage of the 1965 Freedom Ride.

Poignant song

The exhibition title From Little Things Big Things Grow comes from the song of the same name by Australian artists Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. Written in the 1980s it tells the inspiring story of the Gurindji people's struggle for equality and land rights. Visitors can hear the song in the exhibition.

View the song lyrics

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