The future of the colony's dreaming

The Museum of Sydney site is set to be transformed into a new First Nations cultural space

The Museum of Sydney site is set to be transformed into a new First Nations cultural space.

Built on the site of the first Government House, the Museum of Sydney is a special place – a place that always was and always will be Aboriginal Country, Gadigal Country.

The site is an important symbol of first contact between two cultures, where a journey towards a new form of nation-building commenced. This journey had the challenge of reaching a conciliation between the first peoples of this place and the British colonists, who had their own hopes and dreams. The challenge still exists today.

On 3 July, the start of this year’s NAIDOC Week, Sydney Living Museums [now Museums of History NSW] announced the next chapter for this special place.

The new cultural space will be a place where the community can talk openly and constructively about history and culture.

A dedicated cultural space

The Museum of Sydney will gradually transform into a new dedicated First Nations cultural space that puts Aboriginal perspectives at the core of understanding our history – a history that has shaped who we are, in both positive and negative ways.

The decisions made and actions taken at the first Government House have had profound and long-lasting impacts on Aboriginal people across the country and beyond.

The new cultural space will be a place where the community can talk openly and constructively about history and culture, share stories and perspectives, and celebrate the enduring living culture of Aboriginal people.

Through embracing a new way of truth telling, we aim to substantially contribute to a shared understanding of the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal people, and celebrate the diversity, strength and resilience of the first peoples of these lands and waters.

Partnering with community

The new cultural space will be achieved through championing a reset of the relationships between our cultural institution and Aboriginal communities.

We’ll bring the best elements of our institution to our partnerships with community and key organisations, and we’ll take time to research, listen and experiment to progressively co-create a cultural space that is free to tell stories relevant to everyone.

To start, we’ve begun a new partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Languages Trust, to ensure that Aboriginal languages and their importance to culture form a foundational part of what we create on the site of the first Government House.

Working in a new way with Aboriginal communities, we’ll reinterpret and contextualise the site’s existing collection to represent First Nations stories and perspectives. We’ll also develop an ongoing calendar of exhibitions, public programs and workshops that unlock and explore our past: what happened, where it happened, how it happened and why it happened.

The announcement of the new cultural space signifies an exciting future for the site of first Government House and is timely with this year’s NAIDOC theme of Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!

Peter White

Peter White

Head of First Nations Cultural Engagement

Peter White is a Gamilaroi Murri from north-west NSW who has held a number of senior positions and advisory roles in major cultural institutions and government arts agencies. After completing an applied sciences degree in cultural heritage management, he intended to train for a National Parks and Wildlife Service position so that he could care for country and work to protect sites of Aboriginal significance, but his destiny changed during an excursion to the Australian Museum in Sydney. Peter has since worked with a number of museums on a broad range of projects and initiatives. He sees his role as navigating change and developing a new consciousness in management, staff and audiences to value Aboriginal culture and people, and their communities’ perspectives.