Acknowledgement of Country

Australian Design Centre is proud to be a creative place located on Gadigal Country.

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners, the Gadigal People, and to the Elders, past and present.

As an arts organisation with national connections, we pay our respects to Traditional Owners, Custodians and Elders past and present of all First Peoples Countries within which we program.

We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as the oldest continuing culture in the world and celebrate the diversity of language, culture, custom, ceremony and knowledge (Lore) of First Peoples as Traditional Owners, custodians and communities with an ongoing connection across the land, sea and waterways.

We acknowledge that the lands on which we live and work are unceded – always was, always will be, Aboriginal Land.

Chronology of Exhibitions and Projects

Over its fifty-year history, ADC has developed and presented several important exhibitions and initiatives exploring First Nations craft and design, many culminating in national touring projects supported by education and audience development programs. Many have also been supported by state, national and privately-based funding organisations.

Early projects were often curated by non-Indigenous curators, with involvement from First Nations artists, consultants and/or cultural producers. In more recent years this has evolved into greater inclusion of First Nations curators, artists and cultural producers, with ADC working towards a stronger and more direct First Nations voice, particularly through the 2018­–2019 temporary Creative Producer program.

One of the significant early projects was the 1996 exhibition, Maningrida: The language of weaving. Curated by linguist and researcher Margaret Carew, with Andrew Hughes, research advice from academic and curator, Margie West, and text by gallerist and collector, Ann Lewis. As one of the largest surveys of First Nations craft undertaken in Australia at the time. The exhibition opened in Sydney before touring throughout New South Wales.

A few years later in 2000, as part of a curatorial residency at ADC, Dianne Moon (most recently curator Indigenous Fibre at QAGOMA) curated Inland/Island, an exhibition of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and cultural producers.

This was followed in 2002 by the ground-breaking Art on a String, curated by academics Louise Hamby and Diana Young. The project was one of ADC’s most ambitious projects at the time and featured 98 works by 60 First Nations artists. In its development, it marked an important shift in First Nations exhibitions by acknowledging individual artists names, not just their Country and/or the region in which they lived. The project toured nationally throughout 2002 and 2003 to places including Brisbane, Perth, Alice Springs and Wagga Wagga.

Woven Forms: Contemporary basket making in Australia in 2005, saw further collaboration with Louise Hamby, who formed a part of a curatorium with Lindy Allen, Trish Barnard, First Nations cultural practitioner Lola Greeno, artists Virginia Kaiser and Andrew Nicholls and ADC’s Brian Parkes. This project developed into an unprecedented survey of the work of First Nations and non-Indigenous basket makers from every corner of the country. The selected works by the 58 practitioners highlighted the complex practice of weaving and basket making, while offering opportunities for artistic exchange and cultural preservation. Numerous works from the exhibition were purchased for private collections, public museums and galleries.

One of ADC’s most significant explorations of First Nations craft and design was Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture in 2009. This monumental project was conceived by Steven Pozel, developed in partnership with the Australian Museum and co-curated by Brian Parkes with Wiradjuri artist, Nicole Foreshew. The exhibition thematically focused on ‘the animal form’, highlighted the work 33 First Nations artists and cultural producers working in a range of mediums. A substantial catalogue and dedicated website accompanied the project that toured to 11 national, state and regional venues across the country, including the partner venues. It was seen by almost 200,000 people by the time the tour ended in 2012, and the works were ultimately acquired into the Australian Museum’s collection.

During this period ADC continued to develop and/or present other First Nations- focused exhibitions including Yuta Badayala (In a new light) in 2010 for ADC’s Project Space in Surry Hills. The project was developed through a collaboration between furniture design firm Koskela (headed by Russell Koskela and Sasha Titchkovsky) and First Nations weavers from Elcho Island Arts, East Arhnem Land. It featured market-ready lights and lampshades using traditional pandanus and bush string weaving techniques, imbuing the works with the stories of culture and making. Several of the weavers travelled to Sydney for a series of workshops during the exhibition.

ADC’s collaboration with Louse Hamby continued in the 2012 project Women With Clever Hands: Gapuwiyak Miyalkurruwurr Gong Djambatjmala. This stunning touring exhibition, developed with the assistance of artist Lucy Malirrimurruwuy Wanapuyngu, featured woven forms including baskets, mats, bags, sculptural figures and items worn on the body, all selected from the curator’s collection of 130 objects, all created by women artists in Gapuwiyak, East Arnhem Land. The audience’s experience of the work was amplified through a memorable public workshop with Gapuwiyak weavers sharing their skills and knowledge. Several First Nations women from Dubbo made the trip to Sydney with the express purpose of connecting with the artists to learn the skills to take back to their own community to begin to re-establish the practice.

In 2013, ADC presented 36 works by 20 First Nations practitioners in the 2nd International Triennale of Craft at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan. Co-curated by ADC’s Adjunct Curator Lisa Cahill with ADC Director Steven Pozel, the exhibition included Lola Greeno, Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Danie Mellor. Being invited to the Triennial provided ADC with an important opportunity to present contemporary works by First Nations artists in an international context.

Participation in the Triennial, in turn inspired the 2014 exhibition New Weave: Contemporary Approaches to the Traditions of Weaving. Curated by Lisa Cahill, the project brought together the work of seven First Nations and non-Indigenous artists such as Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Jenni Kemarre Martiniello. While examining the common language of weaving, the selected works also presented vastly different approaches to incorporating the woven form within design, craft, art and/or cultural objects through mediums such as glass, textiles, and 3D printing.

Later in 2014, ADC intensified its support of First Nations art and cultural practice through presenting the work of Lola Greeno, as the eighth instalment in its Living Treasures: Masters of Australian Craft series. Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels, was developed in partnership with the artist, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Tasmania and opened in Launceston in 2014 before setting off on an extensive national tour, ending in 2019. The exhibition focused on Lola Greeno’s shellwork, a tradition passed down from her mother and in turn, passed on to her daughter. It also highlighted her art practice and the importance of family and community. As the inaugural First Nations-focused Living Treasure project, Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels included a monograph, specifically developed digital content and a film produced by artist and museum professional, Julie Gough.

In 2016, ADC developed its support for emerging First Nations designers, with the Indigenous Design Mentorship Program. Over the course of 12 months, artist and designer Lucy Simpson and trans-disciplinary creative Nicole Monks, worked with industry colleagues and mentors to each develop a new body of work for their exhibitions; Nicole Monks: marlu (Kangaroo) and Lucy Simpson: Dhuwi.

Later in 2016 into 2017, ADC presented the exhibition Bulay(i) a project featuring the work of 40 Yolŋu jewellers from Buku-Larrnggay Mulka, Yirrkala, Northeast Arnhem Land. During the project, artists and community members participated in workshops associated with the Indigenous Jewellery Project run by curator Emily McCulloch Childs and contemporary jeweller Melinda Young. The aim of the project was to maintain, innovate and document traditional Yolŋu jewellery practice and support the jewellers’ practices to encompass new techniques and materials.

In 2018, ADC presented a collaborative exhibition developed between Sturt Gallery and Ernabella Arts, In These HANDS: Mara nyangangka. As a celebration of 70 years of Ernabella Arts it featured a selection of new paintings, ceramics, weaving and punu (wood carvings) by Ernabella artists. In These HANDS told the story of the long-term link between the two well-known arts centres, while celebrating the long tradition of craft and design in Australia. The project was also testament to a positive partnership, understanding and a shared passion for ‘making, between a First Nations cultural organisation and a non-Indigenous institution.

Later in 2018, works by Tjunkaya Tapaya OAM from Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Lorraine Connelly-Northey were included in the exhibition Obsessed: Compelled to make, which also included ADC produced films of the artists and toured nationally to 12 locations over three years. Tjunkaya Tapaya’s work, Ngayulu Minyma Tjanpinya, I am Tjanpi Woman, was subsequently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery for its permanent collection.

ADC extended its scope for supporting First Nations professional development through being awarded Create NSW Arts and Cultural Development Program funding to employ emerging First Nations researchers and/or creative producers for 12 months. Yuwaalaraay woman Lucy Simpson and Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay man Dennis Golding worked with the organisation in these roles in 2019 across many projects.

The projects developed by the Creative Producers complemented and extended ADC’s reputation and reach through meaningful project-based consultation, while enabling ADC to connect with more First Nations artists and to extend audiences. The employment strategy demonstrated potential opportunities for artists and creatives to work with ADC develop and promote First Nations art, craft and design.

As a significant statement of intent and an acknowledgement of the local First Nations community as the First Peoples of this place, ADC partnered with the City of Sydney's 2019 Art & About Sydney program to produce a new public artwork, Gadigal Mural. Designed by Sydney-based Biripi /Chinese artist Jason Wing, with ADC First Nations Creative Producers Dennis Golding and Lucy Simpson, the 25-metre-long mural references both the topographical patterning and material culture of Gadigal country.

The mural was designed in response to the historical importance of this site as a place of making. It adds to the cultural and visual landscape of the city, illustrating the rich unbroken connections of land and contemporary practices of making and design.

Also in 2019, the next iteration of the Indigenous Jewellery Project, funded by Create NSW, was staged, this time in Walgett with the Walgett Indigenous Jewellery Project. Led by the project’s founder, Emily McCulloch Childs and contemporary Sydney-based jeweller Melinda Young, together with Yuwaalaraay sisters Lucy and Nardi Simpson, local Wirringaa, Yinnar and Miyay women and girls participated in a week of jewellery making workshops.

Continuing the jewellery focus into 2020, ADC developed Made / Worn: Australian Contemporary Jewellery. This exhibition explored the act of making and how jewellery is worn on the body through telling stories starting with the makers and continuing the narrative through the life of the object itself. As a culturally inclusive national story, the exhibition included three significant First Nations jewellery makers – Maree Clarke, Lola Greeno and Grace Lillian Lee, all working within traditional and contemporary contexts.

With COVID-19 curtailing our lives for more than two years, in 2021 ADC’s Artistic Director, Lisa Cahill, worked with guest curator and designer Stephen Goddard, to develop an exhibition, Happy objects, that focused on the small and also the significant personal and cultural joy and meaning an object can bring to the owner. For the project 21 people from various backgrounds and professions were invited to share with the audience a 'happy object' along with its story. As a part of the group, Pawala man Rex Greeno, included a treasured axe handed down through his family from his grandfather, Silas Mansell, a Mannalargenna man and a tribal leader of the Northeast people of Tasmania.

As a further local and permanent commitment to First Nations engagement, ADC worked with the local community in 2022 to create Ngalama Gundhu Ngura (Sitting Tree Place). Located in the public forecourt area between the Centre and Palmer Street, the finished work comprises a re-designed landscaped native plant garden and new serpent-shaped timber bench. As a space it encourages the community to rest, refresh and connect with First Nations culture, as well as with ADC and the Gadigal Mural, around the corner on Barnett Lane. The project was funded through a NSW Generations Fund ‘My Community Project’ grant and developed with partners, IndigiGrow, ASPECT Studios and the City of Sydney. The title was developed by Dakota Dixon in consultation with the Gujaga Foundation, who also provided translations.

Continuing ADC’s commitment to including First Nation’s creatives in the exhibition program, the work of Illiam Nargoodah was included in the 2022 project Transformative Repair x ADC. In this innovative project a selection of emerging and leading Australian artists, designers and craftspeople were commissioned to reinterpret several broken objects provided by prominent climate change activists, creatives and champions of design from Sydney and the Illawarra. The project was a partnership between University of South Australia, the University of New South Wales, ADC and JamFactory Craft and Design, funded by the Australian Research Council, and culminated in an auction to text the market and value of transformative practice.

Programming continued in 2022 through a partnership with UNSW Galleries and UNSW School of Art & Design to present 'Barangga' a yarning series developed by multi-disciplinary artist Nicole Monks, featuring a session with ADC’s First Nations Creative Producer, Dakota Dixon and artist/digital creative Gamilaroi man, Travis de Vries, in Yarn: Building a Digital Practice .

ADC’s exhibition program into 2023, has continued to encompass First Nations creatives with a notable example being Unravelling Queerly. This sensitive and joyful exhibition included work by the (the late) Arone Raymond Meeks. Spirit Ark is a large chaise longue in the shape of Australia covered with fabric inspired by the artist’s linocut by the same title. The work was commissioned for the 2014 World AIDS Conference in Melbourne and reflected the artist’s concerns related to tradition, cultural values, Land Rights, sexuality and belonging to place.

In Object Space (our window gallery on William Street), ADC has featured the work of First Nations artists and makers in in several projects. Highlights included Yirilyimanha Wajarri Barna (Moving about on Country) (2022) a knowledge and culture reclamation project on Wajarri Country related to working with kangaroo skins and emu feathers. The project was led by Nicole Monks with women at the Yamaji Art Centre (Western Australia) and shown at ADC in 2022.

Also included in the Object Space program were: Ngalkan by Gunybi Ganambarr as part of JamFactory’s Steel: Art Architecture Design (2013); Fashion Collection 1987 (2018) by Euphemia Bostock; Shellwork (2018) by Esme Timbery; Sight/Insight (2019) by Dennis Golding and Connecting Cultures (2020) by Gillawarra Arts. In addition, there was a showcase survey of work made between 2016–2021, across several workshops in New South Wales and Northern Territory versions of the Indigenous Jewellery Project (2022).

ADC will continue to support respectful First Nations programming and engagement into through partnerships and in-house curated projects, including a new collaboration with Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Mutukaku Ngura – Motorcar Country, in late March 2023.

Image: White Cockle Shell necklace, 2011, Lola Greeno. Photo by John Leeming