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Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct will be nationally significant in speaking to the central place that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold in Australia’s story.

It will comprise two key and distinct elements:

  • A National Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Centre with new and expanded facilities for AIATSIS that empower and support  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to tell their own stories and celebrate the 65,000-year history of this nation.
  • 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.

The Ngurra Cultural Precinct will sit on Country that is home to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people who have lived for thousands of years amid a landscape of limestone plains, mountains, swamps and streams.

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

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.

Project timeline

Location

The Ngurra Cultural Precinct will sit on Country that is home to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people who have lived for thousands of years amid a landscape of limestone plains, mountains, swamps and streams. 

The Ngurra Cultural Precinct will sit at the heart of our nation’s capital, Commonwealth Place in the National 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 National 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.

Aerial view of the Ngurra Cultural Precinct site from Mount Ainslie. 

The front of the Ngurra Cultural Precinct site from Queen Elizabeth Terrace.

Looking towards the Ngurra Cultural Precinct site across Reconciliation Place.

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

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

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

The AIATSIS Collection

For more than 50 years, we have 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.

We care for a dynamic, living collection of more than 1 million items related to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. The AIATSIS Collection supports cultural transmission, and helps build understanding and appreciation of the continuing and diverse cultures and heritage of Australia’s First Peoples.

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

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

Jilji, Jimmy Pike, Walmajarri people. AIATSIS ATS1036_095

Register your interest about the Ngurra Cultural Precinct

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

Last updated: 28 June 2022