Melbourne Museum to open For Country, for Nation on August 11

Touring exhibition from the Australian War Memorial explores military service from the perspective of Australian First Nations Peoples

For Country, for Nation

Next month Melbourne Museum will proudly open For Country, for Nation, a powerful touring exhibition exploring stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander military service. Developed by the Australian War Memorial and opening on August 11, this is the first time the multidisciplinary exhibition will be shown in Victoria. 

For Country, for Nation will take visitors through six non-linear thematic sections, which relate military service stories from the perspective of Australian First Nations people. Many of these stories are presented in first-person voice. Developed in collaboration with respected Aboriginal consultant curator Amanda Jane Reynolds, collaboration occurred with individuals, artists, families, communities and key Elders and Knowledge Holders. Community collaboration was at the heart of this exhibition's development, with the aim of raising awareness about the valuable and selfless military contributions of Australian First Nations people.

Over 200 objects, photographs and artworks are accompanied by dance, song, and sound, resulting in compelling connections between visual and aural storytelling. Viewers will experience a large-scale projection of the ‘Sarpeye’ war song and dance performed by Charlie Company, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment; the first time that this dance has been recorded. Central objects within For Country, for Nation are two specially-commissioned works by Aunty Clair Bates and Aunty Glenda Nicholls. Aunty Glenda Nicholls's peaceful mixed-media piece invites visitors to contribute a personal offering of remembrance - a poppy, a blessing, or a small keepsake. 

Other specially-commissioned artworks from First Peoples artists Andrew Snelgar, Vicki West, Gabriel Nodea, Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri, Tony Albert and Marilyne Nicholls interpret and respond to First Peoples military experiences. Displayed alongside these are works by Gordon Bennett, Albert Namatjira, Jimmy Pike, Julie Dowling, Daniel Boyd, Shirley Macnamara and many more.

Dr. Shannon Faulkhead, Acting Deputy Director of First Peoples at Museums Victoria, comments,"For Country for Nation tells the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples service in Australia’s military forces that are rarely given a public voice. It is with great pride that we see the contributions of Indigenous service men and women recognised in such a beautiful and powerful exhibition."The themes of For Country, for Nation echo Museums Victoria's commitment to placing First Peoples' living cultures, histories and knowledge at the core of its practice.

Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson, said For Country, for Nation is one of the most significant exhibitions developed by the Memorial in recent times. "It is hard for non-Indigenous Australians to imagine the world as Indigenous Australians saw it, but we must. They have served in every conflict this country has engaged in and they continue to do so with pride and professionalism, which is nothing short of inspiring. This exhibition is an opportunity to honour their service," Dr Nelson said.

For Country, for Nation sits thematically between two other exhibitions currently showing at Melbourne Museum, that explore hardship, determination, and sacrifice. Because of Her, we can! showing in the Birrarung Gallery at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, relates the stories of Victorian First Peoples women who made great impacts in their communities, particularly in the establishment of Aboriginal run services. WW1: Love & Sorrow tells eight very different World War One stories through over 300 photographs and objects. 

Experience For Country, for Nation, as it pays tribute to Australia's First Nations servicemen and women. Reflect on the communities and Countries deeply affected by war, with this powerful Australian War Memorial exhibition. 

For Country, for Nation
An Australian War Memorial touring exhibition
Opens Saturday August 11 at Melbourne Museum
11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
Tickets free with museum entrance.
Tickets and more information

Interviews available on request
All images courtesy of The Australian War Memorial

logo lockup
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government's Visions of Australia program with the support of International Art Services Australia

Top image credit: 
Tony Albert, Coloured Diggers
acrylic on canvas, painted in Sydney, 2013, ART96531.001-004

Join the mailing list and get the latest from our Museums direct to your inbox.

Share your thoughts to WIN

We'd love to hear about your experience with our website. Our survey takes less than 10 minutes and entries go in a draw to win a $100 gift voucher at our online store!