Bidjara and Birri-Gubba Juru academic, author and activist Dr Jackie Huggins AM joined more than 250,000 people walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation in 2000.
The evening before the walk, Jackie wore her favourite outfit, a bright yellow suit, to an event at the Sydney Opera House. Huggins, the former Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia, donated the outfit to the National Museum of Australia in the lead up to the Australian parliament's apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008.
At the age of 15, a teacher told Huggins she could not complete any further schooling because she was Aboriginal. Huggins is now one of Australia's best known historians, authors and First Nations activists.
Huggins received the Australia Medal in 2001 for her work on reconciliation, social justice, literacy and women's issues. She was Co-Commissioner for Queensland in the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their Families and was a founding member of Reconciliation Australia.
As deputy director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit at the University of Queensland until 2017, Huggins pursued her passion for recording First Nations histories. In 2021, Huggins leads the work for Treaty/Treaties in Queensland.
Dr Jackie Huggins:
I know that the National Museum is about memory and about history; I'm truly grateful that those memories will be held forever here at the National Museum of Australia.
I'm very honoured to make this donation because for me it's recognition of the work done for reconciliation in this country. I've worked long and hard on reconciliation – officially for 13 years – and have tried my best to keep it on the national agenda. I've seen some great signs of recognition and some great signs of Australians wanting to work together again.
Dressing up for reconciliation
Huggins originally bought the canary yellow suit, navy blue blouse, a pair of navy and gold earrings, a multi-coloured scarf, and a pair of navy, yellow and white shoes to wear to the 1997 Reconciliation Convention in Melbourne.
She also wore this favourite outfit to the Sydney Opera House for Corroboree 2000, and in 2005 at the Reconciliation Workshop at Old Parliament House in Canberra.
History through personal stories
Huggins also donated the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag pin that she wore on the lapel of the yellow suit at official reconciliation events.
Curator Jay Arthur:
Taking this outfit into the Museum collection not only celebrates the life and achievements of a very special Australian but also reminds us that history is created by people and experienced by people. Through the telling of personal stories the Museum makes national history personal and personal histories part of the national story.
In our collection