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Museum staff and Jackie Huggins with her jacket, blouse, shoes and earrings.
Museum staff with Jackie Huggins and items that she donated to the National Museum of Australia

At a glance

  • Canary yellow suit and accessories
  • Aboriginal campaigner and historian Jackie Huggins
  • Reconciliation
  • Murri people (Queensland)

A long road: Jackie Huggins at the National Museum

Pair of navy, yellow and white shoes belonging to Jackie Huggins.
Pair of shoes belonging to Jackie Huggins

In 1997 Dr Jackie Huggins joined more than 25,000 people and walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation. On the eve of the Australian parliament's apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the former Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia donated the outfit she wore to the Sydney Opera House on the evening of the walk, to the National Museum of Australia.

'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,' said Dr Huggins.

'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

Jackie Huggins' multi-coloured scarf.
Multi-coloured scarf belonging to Jackie Huggins

Dr Huggins, a Murri woman from Queensland, 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 her favourite and most loved 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

A pair of navy and gold earrings.
Jackie Huggins' earrings

Dr Huggins has also donated the Aboriginal flag pin which she wore on the lapel of the yellow suit at official reconciliation events. Curator Jay Arthur says, 'Taking this dress 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.'

Object photos by Catherine Fetherston.

Reconciliation jacket video 1:54

Lorna Schmider-Woodcock describes the value of the outfit worn by her godmother, Jackie Huggins, in her activist work for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Part of the Object Stories project.

In our collection

Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation PosterA colour poster for the "COUNCIL FOR ABORIGINAL RECONCILIATION" featuring an image of Australian sprinters Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and Cathy Freeman. There is printed text "THE / COUNCIL'S / VISION / A united Australia ... and provides / justice and equity / for all." on the right side and "together we / can't lose" at the bott...

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