State Library Victoria, now the world’s third busiest public library, has announced the establishment of a significant Indigenous Gallery, made possible by a $1.25 million gift from the Hansen Little Foundation.
The Gallery will be dedicated to telling the story of Victoria’s Indigenous communities – with the Gallery’s first exhibition celebrating the return to Country of two rare and culturally significant works by William Baraki.
Led by the VIRC and curated by Indigenous Victorians, the Gallery is in a pivotal location in the Library, forming part of the Cowen Gallery/Rotunda suite.
Manager of the Victorian Indigenous Research Centre (VIRC), Marcus Hughes, said the new Gallery will support the voices and stories of Indigenous Victorians and provide meaningful experiences that connect visitors with material held in the Library’s collection.
“The State Library Victoria holds an incredible collection of items of deep cultural significance to Indigenous Victorians. The new Gallery will open up that collection to community and provide a safe space for Indigenous communities to shape, share and connect with their history and stories,” said Mr Hughes.
The Chair of the Hansen Little Foundation, Jane Hansen AO, said she hoped the Gallery would encourage Victorians and visitors to engage more deeply with the rich history and cultural traditions of our Indigenous communities.
“The vision for the Gallery is for it to be a place of contemplation, reflection, listening and understanding – a tangible step in reconciliation and inclusion of our Indigenous peoples and their voices,” said Ms Hansen.
“Understanding and appreciating our Indigenous history is important for all of us and we believe deserves a special and dedicated space in State Library Victoria.”
President of the Library Board of Victoria, Christine Christian AO, said the new Gallery reflects State Library Victoria’s vision and commitment to being a Library for all people and showcasing the rich history and diversity of Victoria’s communities.
“We have a responsibility as the caretakers of much of Victoria’s recorded history to tell the story of Victoria through the ages – and one of the most important aspects of that story is the place of Indigenous communities in our history,” said Ms Christian.
“Being able to support the sharing of the Indigenous collection with a wider audience and acknowledge that history is a privilege. It’s also fitting that the Gallery’s first exhibition is of the William Barak works, which are now in their rightful home on Wurundjeri land.”
“The Board is grateful to Jane Hansen AO and Paul Little AO for supporting our vision for the Gallery and committing a gift of $1.25 million over three years through the Hansen Little Foundation – the Foundation’s second major donation to the Library. This generous gift has meant our vision could become a reality.”
“The VIRC plays a critical role in preserving and promoting the rich heritage and cultural traditions of Australian Aboriginal peoples, with a particular focus on Victoria’s own Indigenous language groups – ensuring that all activities of the Library are undertaken with cultural integrity and authority.”
“We hope this beautiful new gallery will become a very special space for Indigenous Victorians, a place where they can have a stronger and more direct say in how their voices are seen and heard,” said Ms Christian.
The first installation in the space will be beruk – an exhibition of two recently repatriated works of William Barak and celebrate the return of these works to Country. The exhibition was created on behalf of Wurundjeri people and the community by the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.
It celebrates Wurundjeri Ancestor, artist, and last Ngurungaeta, William Barak’s life through painted and photographic portraits during the post-colonial era of the mission station.
beruk is presented by State Library Victoria through the Victorian Indigenous Research Centre, with support from the Hansen Little Foundation. It will be open to the public from 13 December 2023 until 26 April 2024. For more information, visit: www.slv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Andrew Gardiner, The Hon. Danny Pearson, Christine Christian AO, President of the Library Board of Victoria and Paul Duldig, CEO State Library Victoria (supplied)