Skip to main content

Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct

The Australian Government has announced its commitment to establish a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural precinct in the heart of the national capital, Canberra – Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct.

The Ngurra precinct will be nationally significant in speaking to the central place that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold in Australia’s story. It will comprise two key elements:

  • A National Resting Place to house and care for repatriated limited provenance ancestral remains and any associated cultural material on their journey back to Country.
  • A Culture and Knowledge Centre where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia tells its own stories and celebrates the 65,000-year history of this nation. It will include education, exhibition and gallery space in a new fit-for-purpose home for AIATSIS.

Two decades of consultations have identified the need for a National Resting Place that would replace existing facilities in museums, which do not — in the view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples — provide culturally-appropriate facilities for caring for ancestral remains with limited provenance. 

It will close the widely-acknowledged gap among the existing institutions. It will also build a shared understanding of our present and our future, furthering the national narrative of what it means to be an Australian. 

The first story of Australia is an Aboriginal and a Torres Strait Islander story. This story is a living story, now over 65 000 years old.

Boats, Fish, Native Flora and Fauna, 1891, Mickey of Ulladulla - Ngulla Wellamunagaa

Boats, Fish, Native Flora and Fauna, 1891, Mickey of Ulladulla, Dhurga people. AIATSIS ATS400F

Ocean Guardian, Brian Robinson, - Ngulla Wellamunagaa

Ocean Guardian, 2017, Brian Robinson, Kala Lagaw Ya/Maluyligal/Wuthathi/Dayak people. AIATSIS, AIAS585.210619_001

Jilji artwork by Jimmy Pike 

Jilji, Jimmy Pike, Walmajarri people. AIATSIS ATS1036_095

For more than 50 years, AIATSIS has developed and been the custodian of a unique collection that has contributed to building understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture and heritage.

The AIATSIS Collection is important both as a keeping place for culturally significant objects, and as a resource for anybody looking to improve their knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.

Location

Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct will sit at the heart of our nation’s capital, Commonwealth Place in the Parliamentary Triangle, close to the centre of government and alongside other principal Australian cultural institutions from where our national story is told.

The site is located on one of the major axes of Walter Burley Griffin’s design for Canberra between Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial and will complement the existing institutions that are located within the Parliamentary Triangle. These include the Tent Embassy, National Library of Australia, Questacon, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, and the High Court of Australia.

Ngurra – appears in many different Aboriginal languages around Australia and is a word for ‘home’, ‘camp’, ‘a place of belonging’, ‘a place of inclusion’.

Commonwealth Place Canberra

Commonwealth Place and Reconciliation Place on Walter Burley Griffin's land axis. Image: VisitCanberra.

Commonwealth Place, Canberra

Commonwealth Place and Reconciliation Place on the Walter Burley Griffin land axis in Canberra. Image: David Wall.

Design competition

The Australian Government has announced a design competition for the Ngurra precinct and the structures within it.

The Ngurra precinct will be a significant addition to the nation and a high quality design is needed to bring the concept to life, ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are embedded in the precinct.

An independent jury will judge the entries and make its recommendation to government. Further information and requirements for the design competition will be available soon.

Gagudju Man, Lorrkkon Ceremony

Lorrkkon ceremony is performed at Commonwealth Place to celebrate the 50th anniversary of AIATSIS in 2014.

Sketchbook designs of shields by Fred Maundraby, Yidinji peoples. 1941.

Sketchbook designs of shields by Fred Maundraby, Yidinji peoples. 1941.

School children looking at the Our Language: Keeping Us Strong exhibition at AIATSIS

School children looking at the Our Language: Keeping Us Strong exhibition at AIATSIS in 2019.

AIATSIS plays a critical part in bringing people together and helping all Australians reimagine what it means to be Australian and to forge a national identity that embraces and celebrates the unique cultures of Australia’s First Peoples.

Jodie Sizer, Chairperson, AIATSIS

Contact