"Talking to everybody"

30 June, 2010

Will Patten
Will Patten, Indigenous Community Engagement Officer.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Museum Victoria

William Patten has been a familiar face around Museum Victoria and its galleries for a decade. In June 2010 he began a new role as the Indigenous Community Engagement Officer on the Bunjilaka redevelopment project.

Will first began at MV as a customer service officer at Melbourne Museum upon its opening in 2000. With a background in horticulture, he was initially attracted by the Forest Gallery. “One of the areas I love is indigenous plants - the plants themselves and their food and medicinal properties,” said Will. Since then he’s also worked at the Immigration Museum and Scienceworks and in temporary roles as a gardener, a presenter in the Discovery Program, exhibition installer and was even the museum’s mailman. “All those diverse roles showed me just how many pockets of expertise there are here,” said Will. “I love the museum. It’s a place that is what you make it, that’s what gives me the urge to walk out my front door and come here every day.”

In his new role, he is coordinating the community consultations about the new exhibitions for Bunjilaka which are scheduled to open in 2012. “The most exciting part of it for me personally is travelling round and getting out into the community.” He believes that the local Indigenous networks connected to Bunjilaka are just as important as the physical exhibition. After a month in the job, he said, “I’m starting to understand who everyone is and how we can work together in collaboration.” His work will formalise the existing local networks and the way the museum communicates with them to ensure ongoing relationships.

Already active in formal Indigenous organisations, such as the Victorian Indigenous Men's Network, Will credits his strong sense of community to his family background. “I’m from a strong, proud family that revolves around culture, a culture where you understand your place within your community. My family has been active politically. I’m part of the Cooper and Patten family.”

The first round of consultations in late 2009 introduced the project to the Indigenous community around Victoria and ask what they’d like to see in the new exhibitions. The next stage builds upon that and will work closely with Traditional Owners of country, objects and culture. “Everything’s intertwined,” explained Will. “All Indigenous people are Traditional Owners in one way or another, so I’m talking to everybody.” He is excited about new ways to work with communities, such as online media, and the idea of Indigenous communities participating in the conservation of cultural material through workshops on how to store and handle precious objects.

Will described Bunjilaka’s importance for Victorian Aboriginal people. “They will walk into this place and feel a sense of belonging. They’re walking in and seeing family. I want it to be a meeting place – you’d feel like this is a live, community building and know that there was going to be someone there you know and haven’t seen in ages.”

Comments (27)

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Ella B 13 July, 2013 16:50
I was late to discover this blog but it is never too late to say: Will Patten you are an inspiration! I look forward to the opening of new exhibitions in Bunjilaka in September and learning more about your work which reaches beyond this gallery space.
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Marcia sutton 29 October, 2011 17:45
Proud of your deadly museum of our family. Hope do u remember me long time from dandengong farm with aboriginal people since 1995, i'm deaf. email me asap marcia xx
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Colleen Wendt 21 July, 2010 11:43
Bigger and better Will - congratulations, well deserved.
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Derrick Singletary 13 July, 2010 13:08
Congrats Will! Well Done!
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Derrick Singletary 13 July, 2010 11:24
Congrats Will! Well Done!
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Drew E 13 July, 2010 11:03
Excellent Wile and I’m sure you will make things work out just fine — good luck.
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Peter Vella 12 July, 2010 15:24
Will Baby!"I don't know about the Sydney Swans, but you are a Star!
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Hazra 10 July, 2010 12:10
Hi Will, Congratulations. I am so pleased for you what a fantistic work you will do the best job for the best person
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anthony mc 10 July, 2010 10:43
can't think of a better person to make this a success. what a shame he barracks for Sydney Swans.
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Bruce Fisher 9 July, 2010 11:46
Whoa! what a pleasant surprise! I've had the pleasure and honour to have walked with Wil and others at the Indigenous Mens Group! good to see him here! he's a fine honest human being!
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Martin Bro lancaster Reynolds 6 July, 2010 12:46
Said it the other day Will - awesome bro
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Jan Molloy 5 July, 2010 08:15
Well done Will - you are definitely the right person for the job.
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Sandra Winchester 4 July, 2010 16:01
Hi Will, Congratulations. I am so pleased for you and for Bunjilaka. Very well done, Sandra.
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Kay 4 July, 2010 15:48
Just the right person for the job! Good to see you move in to this role, Will...good on ya!
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Lyanne Du 3 July, 2010 14:26
Keep up the fastastic work Will!
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Tess 2 July, 2010 13:38
Way to go Will, glad you're enjoying it!!
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Liz 2 July, 2010 09:44
Definitely the right man for the job. It will be great to see Bunjilaka become even more of a living community space. Go Will!
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John Long 2 July, 2010 08:35
Well done Will,and best of luck with the new venture.
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Colleen 1 July, 2010 17:06
Will Patten: I'm very very proud of you. You deserve that position so much. Do a brilliant job!
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Dave Henry 1 July, 2010 13:57
That's really good news! With Will on board it's sure to be a success!
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Ros 1 July, 2010 12:50
Hiya Will, congrats and very well done. You'll be great. Take Care Ros
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Mandy 1 July, 2010 11:06
Well said, Will. The project is lucky to have you working on it. I know you'll do an amazing job.
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Jenny 1 July, 2010 10:31
All the best with this project. You will be great.
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Nicholas 1 July, 2010 09:50
Great move!
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Kim 30 June, 2010 18:01
Well done Will!
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Phil 30 June, 2010 15:42
Keep up to good work Will.
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Robyn 30 June, 2010 15:31
Excellent to see someone like Will in this role.
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