The Australian Museum (AM) presents one of the most significant exhibitions in its history: Unsettled, opening today free to the public. In this powerful exhibition, First Nations’ voices tell Australia’s foundation story including First Nations resilience and survival. First-hand accounts are presented through historical documents, large-scale artworks, immersive experiences and never-before-seen objects from the Australian Museum collection.
Unsettled is an evidence-based exhibition which takes visitors on a journey from the signal fires lit by Aboriginal people as a warning when Lieutenant Cook sailed up the east coast in 1770, to the resistance and resilience of First Nations peoples since colonisation in 1788. With more than 190 objects and images in the show and over 100 contributions by First Nations peoples across the country, Unsettled illuminates the power of truth-telling.
Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt, a Eualayai and Gamillaroi woman and AM Trustee said that Unsettled challenges the traditional relationship between First Nations peoples and collecting institutions.
“By privileging of the perspective and views of First Nations peoples, Unsettled is redefining the conversations a museum can have with the people who walk into it. Not only can they look, listen, learn and deepen their understanding, they can do so knowing they are engaging in an authentic First Nations voice and vision,” said Larissa.
Opening on the week prior to National Reconciliation Week, Australian Museum Director and CEO Kim McKay AO said the Unsettled exhibition required the AM to reflect on its own history and emphasised the need to honour First Nations’ voices.
“As the first museum in the nation, the AM acknowledges our colonial past, which can be observed in the objects in the Museum’s collection, in the perpetuation of stereotypes in past exhibitions and in the alienation of First Nations peoples from telling First Nations stories. It is of crucial importance that the AM plays its part in correcting the record and ensuring a positive, scientifically rigorous and accurate representation of our nation’s history,” said Kim.
“This is why we believe Unsettled is one of the most important exhibitions in the Australian Museum’s history and one that everyone should see. And because of this, we’ve made entry free with the help of our partners and donors.”
“Truth-telling about Australia’s past is an important process for understanding who we are now and how we came to be as a nation. Truth-telling can be confronting, but the process can be powerful: grief can make way for healing, and healing unites people who were once divided. It is time we stop pretending that meaningful change can happen in a system that is grounded in denial,” said McBride.
“Without truth, our histories, our lands, our peoples and our relationships will remain unhealed and unsettled. We hope the Unsettled exhibition will shift perceptions and help us develop a national narrative of equity and respect and I encourage everyone to come experience it for themselves,” said McBride.
Unsettled will run through to Sunday 10 October.