Caleb Clarke, Holly Ireland, and Nikayla Bamblett with an emu feather skirt in the museum's collection store.
Image: Genevieve Grieves
Source: Museum Victoria
Members of the Victorian Indigenous Youth Advisory Council (VIYAC) shared their thoughts about the Bunjilaka redevelopment project at a forum for Indigenous Youth in late January. The eight forum participants hailed from across metropolitan and regional south-eastern Australia and represented seven Indigenous clans and nations. The day’s events included an introduction to the redevelopment project and tours through Bunjilaka’s exhibitions, the Milarri garden and the Indigenous Cultures collection store.
VIYAC is a group of Indigenous young people between the ages of 12–25 who are living in Victoria. VIYAC State Coordinator, Tim Kanoa, helped to organise the forum and attended on the day. “More than half of the Indigenous community in Victoria is under 25 years old,” said Tim, “so anything developed for Indigenous people will strongly affect youth. In the past we’ve not necessarily had the opportunity to speak up on issues that are important to us.” VIYAC aims to change this by providing advice to government departments and organisations to ensure that young people’s voices are recognised, and, in the process, developing the skills of VIYAC members. “It’s about hearing from young people and doing something with the information they provide that will benefit them.”
During the forum, the participants discussed what they thought about the existing Bunjilaka displays and what they’d like to see in future. “They related to the Koori Voices section,” said Tim, “but would like to see more stuff relating to us as Victorian Indigenous young people, like issues with stereotyping.” Tim explained that many Indigenous youth have had their identity challenged because they don’t look the way that many people expect. “When we are asked what nationality we are, people don’t believe us because we’re not in our traditional dress and living in the bush.” For this reason, Tim feels that Bunjilaka has an important role in educating people not just about historical events, but how these events still shape the Indigenous community today.
The collection store tour was a particular highlight for many participants. “The store tour was amazing,” said Tim. “These were artefacts we know about and talk about, but don’t get to see up close. We felt an overwhelming sense of connection and identity and pride, because we know they come from our country and our ancestors made them. It’s important that more Indigenous people living in Victoria can access them and have that kind of feeling.”
The VIYAC members were all enthusiastic to stay involved in the project. Said Tim, “For me, I’m looking forward to continued feed-in to the development. It’s exciting to know that we are able to contribute, and we want to see our ideas come into play.”