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An update on the Museums Galleries Australia 10-year Indigenous Roadmap Project

Terri Janke, Taryn Saunders and Sarah Grant talk about the Museums Galleries Australia 10 year Indigenous roadmap Project commissioned by Museums Galleries Australia.

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Terri Janke:

Hello, I'm Terri Janke. I'm beaming in from Sydney. Gadigal country. I'm an Indigenous woman. I'm a lawyer. I'm Wuthathi and Meriam.

My firm, Terri Janke and Company, has been commissioned by Museums Galleries Australia to prepare an Indigenous roadmap for the future of Indigenous engagement with the museums/galleries sector. We're so happy to be working with Alex Marsden and she's been great in leading us in the consultation process.

Working on the project are two young Indigenous women, Taryn Saunders and Sarah Grant and you'll hear from them in this clip. They have been consulting and drafting towards the report and the issues paper and all the things that of the outcomes for this project and it's been a really good learning experience for them.

Taryn Saunders:

Hi, I'm Taryn Saunders from the Gunditjmara people and I've been working alongside Terri assisting with the workshops and holding some of the consultations.

Extensive consultations has been key to this project. We've met with many people around the country including associations such as the Council of Australasian Museum Directors, and Indigenous advisory committees of cultural institutions.

We have consulted with over 600 people through face-to-face meetings, emails, teleconferences and we've conducted 13 public workshops across Australia with more workshops to be held.

We have prepared a literature review and conducted some surveys and audits of major institutions. The result of all of these are available on our website.

So one of the questions we wanted answers for was: Where are we now?

There was a serious disjunct between how museums and galleries represent and engage, and how Indigenous people want to be represented and engaged.

At the heart of this is a different value system: one is based on a knowledge system that values the object, and the other is based on the living culture, the relationships and the processes

Many people we spoke to said that Australia started well in the 90s on their approach to indigenous participation and engagement in museums. There has been some great work that has come about due to the policies 'Previous Posessions' and 'Continuous Cultures' including permanent and temporary exhibitions which have set a high standard of representing an Indigenous viewpoint.

However, many people felt that this participation and engagement has been inconsistent. There is a sense that this momentum from the 90s has subsided, leaving only a handful of committed players.

So, where are we now? What representation and engagement do we currently have?

In representation, our audit asked the question: how would you rate Australian museums and galleries in a way that represents Indigenous material? Encouragingly forty percent of respondents said museums and galleries are doing good to excellent. Yet, disturbingly just under a quarter of respondents felt museums and galleries are performing poor in this area.

Representation of Indigenous history must also consist of recognition that this is a history that is often hard to tell. Museums and galleries should be encouraged to embrace these histories, recognising the need for these traumatic stories to be told in order for reconciliation and healing to take place.

Now I want to talk a little bit about engagement. How do museums engage with indigenous people?

26% of museums and galleries rate their engagement with Indigenous people as excellent with 51 percent saying fair and 22 percent saying poor.

Museums engage Indigenous people by having RAPs [Reconciliation Action Plans], outreach projects, engagement, internships, Indigenous Advisory Groups etc.

However, in the audit, 85 percent of Indigenous people said that they wanted a deeper engagement. The consultations gave an indication of what this deeper engagement is

Now to employment. Increasing Indigenous employment in the sector has been a central concern for policy documents over the last 25 years. This is worrying then that it still remains at the forefront of people's concerns.

Our survey suggests that people are right to be concerned. 59% of respondents to our audit report noted that they had no Indigenous staff, while 79% of museums and galleries recorded having no Indigenous staff at an executive level.

The staff that are in museums and galleries do not always feel supported. Cultural safety was a big issue. They have unique roles as being part of the Indigenous community but working for museums and galleries.

Sarah Grant:

Hi, I'm Sarah Grant. I work at Terri Janke and Company and one of my main aspects inside this project was to help create the literature review, help draft the issues paper, do a lot of consultations and help with the running and the organizing of the workshops

From the consultations we were able to develop five key elements for change and these are just the starting points for the roadmap which we're going to develop further, through further consultations

So the first point is creating culturally safe spaces.

The second is to two-way care taking of our treasures

The third being embedding Indigenous engagement into museums and galleries.

The fourth point Indigenous opportunities and the fifth connecting communities.

So in order to create culturally relevant and safe spaces what we're aiming to do is create welcoming spaces inside museums and galleries for Indigenous people. Cultural safety was recognized as perhaps one of the most significant areas in relation to Indigenous engagement.

People said that there will be many benefits stemming from having culturally safe spaces. This would include: increased Indigenous employment because Indigenous people would feel safe inside those working environments, increased Indigenous visitors because they would feel safe inside museums and galleries (again), and it would also have staff members recognise the value of representing and engaging with Indigenous peoples.

The next step would be creating two-way caretaking for our treasures some of the keys concerns that were raised in relation to museums and galleries was that they didn't know what was inside their collections. Further, access to these collections was limited and when it happened it was under the museums and galleries circumstances. Therefore, there needed to be new practices in place to ensure that Indigenous people had access to these collections in ways that they made them feel comfortable.

Proper collection management would also increase Indigenous employment and offer more opportunities for Indigenous people to revitalize culture, to work with their culture again and to be able to understand what has been locked behind doors for hundreds of years

Embedding Indigenous concepts into museums and galleries involves all museums and galleries moving towards creating an environment where Indigenous engagement is at the centre of that practice Indigenous engagement can occur through commitments such as funding opportunities, exhibitions, reconciliation action plans and policies that are implemented to make sure that when staff are approaching exhibitions they know how to interact with Indigenous communities and how to interact with Indigenous cultural material.

Indigenous opportunity meant ensuring that Indigenous staff felt comfortable in their roles, and also meant that Indigenous people were employed in all areas of the organization. Further there was opportunity for both younger and older Indigenous people, and there was an emphasis on diversity: Indigenous people need to be given executive positions and board opportunities so that there is that upper level of change happening.

The final element for change was making sure that communities had a way to connect with museums and galleries. One of the main ways of doing this was ensuring that there were outreach programs, educational opportunities, benefit sharing opportunities.

So just to reiterate, the five key elements for change that we're developing are around creating culturally safe spaces, two-way caretaking of our treasures, embedding Indigenous engagement into museums and galleries practices, creating Indigenous opportunities and connecting communities.

Terri Janke:

We've spoken to Indigenous peoples, those working in the sector, conducted surveys to get a lot of information about how to improve Indigenous engagement in museums and galleries. The roadmap, when it comes out, will need the support of the sector: both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working in there, both large organizations, small museums and galleries, those in regions and remote areas, to really make a difference.

If we are to change the position of Indigenous people in Australia and the historical record and the representation of Indigenous people in museums and galleries we need to work together.



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