MGA National Conference

On 17 May 2017, Amanda Hayman and Carol McGregor presented at the Museums and Galleries Australia National Conference at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

The presentation was entitled ‘Art of the Skins: cultural revitalisation, community co-creation and collaboration’ and we addressed the topic Operational Landscape: best practice, case studies, collection management, curating, strategic directions, using the ‘Art of the Skins’ project as a case study for best practice models of Indigenous community engagement in the GLAM sector.

I shared my experience as a representative of the cultural institution and Carol spoke about her personal journey through the perspective of an artist and coordinator of the community cultural development elements of the project.  

     “In 2015 I approached kuril dhagun with a proposal for Glennys and myself to hold cloak making workshops and the first Queensland possum skin cloak exhibition. kuril dhagun’s philosophy to foster partnerships with Indigenous communities, building capacity and a greater understanding of Indigenous history and culture, meant that the project was embraced and elevated.” ~ Carol McGregorImage: Brisbane Community Cloak, 2016

For Art of the Skins, more than fifty possum skin cloak-making workshops were held on the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. Participants self-identified with which workshops to participate in, embracing the contemporary and often complex nature of our Indigenous communities. It was essential to incorporate specific historical references to Country into the workshop programs for each community, through sharing historical research and incorporating aspects of it into the contemporary cloaks.

Six community cloaks were made for the ‘Art of the Skins’ exhibition and because of the autonomy and significant input given by each community the cloaks are all very unique. It was a significant cultural resurgence project that embraces memories, sharing and belonging. Rich with partnerships and collaborations between Indigenous researchers, communities, and institutions, it tells our stories our way enabling a continuation of cultural practices that connect to living culture whilst holding on to knowledge and inherited memory.

We are very proud of the project and the exhibition and we have recently released the Art of the Skins catalogue online.

The conference was a wonderful way to share the learnings from this project and promote the methodologies we adopted in our processes.

Key methodologies to working in partnership with Indigenous community that you could adopt in your cultural institution;

  • Be open to new ‘Expressions of Interest’ from Indigenous community
  • Identify community leaders to drive the project and allow a level of autonomy in the process by providing genuine leadership opportunities
  • Have open communication in all aspects of the project
  • Allow enough time to develop meaningful relationships
  • Acknowledge oral histories as legitimate sources of evidence
  • Be open to changes recommended by the community
  • Allow community to have ownership over cultural materials and recognise their cultural and intellectual rights
  • Give back to community
  • Celebrate together

If you would like to know more about the community engagement activities, the possum skin-cloaks or the exhibition, please contact kuril.dhagun@slq.qld.gov.au.