The Australian Government’s announcement today of its commitment to establish a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural precinct in the heart of Canberra was warmly welcomed by the Chair of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Ms Jodie Sizer, and by AIATSIS CEO, Mr Craig Ritchie.
Ms Sizer said Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct will reinforce the country’s appreciation of the important place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and history play in our national story.
‘On behalf of AIATSIS, and on behalf of all First Nations people in this country, I welcome this commitment by the Australian Government,’ Ms Sizer said at today’s announcement by the Prime Minister at the AIATSIS Maraga building on Acton peninsula.
‘The Ngurra precinct will reinforce the country’s appreciation of the important place that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories play in the story of this nation.
‘It will be a place of storytelling, and of teaching, and of sacred rest for ancestral remains and other sensitive materials for which the provenance is uncertain.
‘The inclusion of a National Resting Place is of vital importance, and is long overdue. Consultation on this concept dates back more than two decades.
‘Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct will complement storytelling by other national institutions in the Parliamentary Triangle – the Parliamentary buildings, Reconciliation Place, the Tent Embassy, the High Court, the national collecting institutions.
‘And it will provide a new and more accessible home for AIATSIS.
‘For almost 60 years, AIATSIS has developed and been custodian of a unique collection that serves to increase understanding of the heritage of the First Nations peoples of this land.
‘We care for an unparalleled and growing collection of over one million items – works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge-keepers, artists, filmmakers, storytellers and writers, and academic research materials.
‘We lead and influence the conduct of research in First Nations studies – including in ethics, protocols, and collections practices.
‘It is clear that AIATSIS is valued by First Nations peoples across this country, and that they are invested in our work. Donations from First Nations communities steadily pour in to enlarge the collection.
‘And so, in total, this is the work that Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct will enhance.
‘AIATSIS is honoured and proud to lead this project forward.’
Mr Ritchie said consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the project’s development will be essential.
‘Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct have national significance in the Parliamentary Triangle as speaking to the central place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s story,’ he said.
‘The precinct will include education, exhibition and gallery spaces and a new, fit-for-purpose home for AIATSIS.
‘It will allow us to showcase the work of AIATSIS to the world in new ways, with built-for-purpose facilities.
‘It will be a place for discoveries by the tens of thousands of schoolchildren who visit Canberra each year, eager to learn.
‘These activities support telling the story of the central and enduring place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. A story that is over 65,000 years old.
‘Telling that story is very much at the core of what AIATSIS does. The new facilities offered by the Ngurra: The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct will create new opportunities for people to encounter, engage with, and be transformed by that story.’