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Empowering and strengthening the cultural leaders of the future

The 2019 cohort of Encounters fellows arrived at the National Museum of Australia on 12 August to begin the first three-week intensive program in Canberra.

Selected from a highly competitive pool of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners from around Australia, each of the six successful applicants are working toward delivering powerful local projects that strengthen culture and empower their communities.

A group photo featuring the 2019 Encounters Fellows.

The 2019 Encounters fellows. Left to right: Naomi Appleby, Kyra Edwards, John Morseu, Sherika Nulgit, Kyra Kum-Sing, Harold Ludwick

The Encounters Fellowship program

Kylie Caldwell, 2016 Encounters Fellowship alumni:

This is an opportunity to grow people, empower people and strengthen people.

Through a tailored, 12-week professional development program that includes individual placements at the National Museum and partner cultural institutions, the fellows will be supported to design and develop their community projects, as well as learn more about cultural institutions and collections and how they can connect their communities, histories and stories to them.

Canberra intensive

During the three-week Canberra intensive, the fellows participated in workshops with museum, gallery and cultural sector specialists, such as Gabrielle Dolan on the 'Business of Storytelling' and Tim Moriarty on 'Digital Futures'.

The fellows also went on cultural study tours of the National Gallery of Australia and the Australian War Memorial and had inductions, training and research time in the collections at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the National Museum.


The 2016 Encounters Fellowship alumni and the 2019 cohort of fellows at the Encounters Fellowship Dinner, 14 August 2019

The 2016 Encounters fellows shared some of their experiences with the 2019 fellows and guests at the Encounters Fellowship dinner

Encounters fellows, from left to right: Kyra Edwards, Kyra Kum-Sing and John Morseu at the Museum’s official welcome to the program

At the end of their three weeks in Canberra, the fellows reported that they were feeling inspired and empowered by their first fellowship journey.

The next step

Finola Woodley, 2016 Encounters Fellowship alumi:

This scholarship provides me with the tools to develop and create a platform for my culture to be shared locally and with the world.

The fellows returned home to their respective communities to begin developing their project plans, in consultation with their mentors, and carry out research in preparation for their three-week intensive in the United Kingdom and France.

Through a series of group visits and individual placements, the fellows will be given behind-the-scenes access to key British cultural institutions such as at the British Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Royal Museums Greenwich, the Horniman Museum and Gardens, the British Council Collection and the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

As well as meeting academics and experts in cultural heritage, the fellows will have the opportunity to see important Indigenous collections and access cultural heritage materials that have originated from their own communities.

A map of Australia showing where the 2019 Fellows are from.
Map of the 2019 Encounters fellows and their locations around Australia

Reflections on the program

Encounters fellow 2016, Leitha Assan, said of her experience in the UK, 'When we went in to all of the places that we visited, we felt that spiritual connection. We knew that they [the Ancestors] knew that we were there’.

Leitha and fellow 2016 alumni, Kylie Caldwell and Nadine Lee, met and spent time with the new fellows during their first week in Canberra, which gave them the opportunity to share some of these significant experiences and learnings in person.

Leitha Assan, 2016 Encounters Fellowship alumni:

I say to the museums … what you do have is our cultural DNA … they were our ancestors hands that made those artefacts.

While it is still early days in their fellowship journey, it is clear that like the 2016 fellows before them, these six individuals have a significant contribution to make to conversations about how cultural institutions collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and connect them to the cultural materials held in their collections.

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