A celebration of survival, strength and diversity, Ngulla Wellamunagaa is the first exhibition to be wholly curated by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and is holding space at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The exhibition centres around 16 stories speaking to the continuing connection to Country, told through the connection to trees that have survived. Created through materials generously donated by communities and pieces from AIATSIS collections, the exhibition aims to rewrite narratives and tell the deeper story of Australia’s First Peoples.

AIATSIS Executive Director of Collections, Leonard Hall, said Ngulla Wellamunagaa is driven by its storytelling of diverse cultures.

“It’s celebrates the survival, continuity and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait [Islander] cultures. It’s told through stories affirming ongoing connection to Country and I think that is an important theme. It’s the story of trees and how they have survived and revived,” Mr Hall said.

“The theme identifies the trees as a living sacred landscape of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and how the different components of a tree are interwoven with this key narrative.”

Mr Hall notes the significant input of communities within the exhibition.

“Many of the stories have been developed through a process of respectful, genuine community engagement and acknowledging those connections to the materials with the AIATSIS.

“It was so important for us to ensure that the content of the exhibition had the approval and support from community.”

“I think it is important for Indigenous people and Indigenous organisations to be able to shape that narrative around Australia’s Indigenous history and cultures.”

AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie agrees.

“This exhibition tells the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. It is a story of contribution and success, a story about the resurgence of a robust living culture.

“On behalf of the AIATSIS Council, I thank the artists and community members for generously sharing their stories expressed through artworks and other materials.”

Hosted by the National Museum of Australia, Ngulla Wellamunagaa is being displayed in one of Australia’s most prominent spaces, providing the exhibition the platform to educate and inspire the broader Australian community.

National Museum of Australia Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, is delighted to host the exhibition.

“This partnership is crucial to fostering a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture for all Australians and international visitors,” Dr Trinca said.

“We proudly talk about the fact we have 65,000 years of continuous culture, the oldest living culture in the world, using materials like those in this exhibition helps tell that story and shape that narrative,” Mr Hall added.

“It’s so important that as many people as possible have the opportunity to come and see it … look at it and be amazed at all the examples of our really unique and vibrant cultures.”

Ngulla Wellamunagaa is open freely to the public until March 29 2020 in the First Australians Gallery at the National Museum of Australia.

By Rachael Knowles