Why You Need To Visit The Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Entry to First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka, Melbourne Museum | Courtesy of Melbourne Museum
Entry to First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka, Melbourne Museum | Courtesy of Melbourne Museum
Photo of Monique La Terra
16 September 2016

Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre is an immersive space where visitors can discover Aboriginal history chronicled through stories, artwork, languages and artefacts presented across a series of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Enter the nest of ancestral spirit Bunjil and learn how he breathed life into Kulin nation, wander through the Milarri Garden Trail, visit the resident eels during feeding time and see over 600 artefacts significant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

First Peoples

In collaboration with 16 Elders and representatives from the Yulendj Group, First Peoples opened in 2013 as a permanent exhibition celebrating the history, culture, and survival of Aboriginal Victoria from the Creation time to now. As you enter into Wominjeka, the greeting area of the exhibition, you will meet members of the Indigenous community aged 8-72 in Deep Listening and hear the 38 languages spoken by Victorian Aboriginals. Accompanied by a virtual guide known as Messenger, you will discover the customs of the Koori people and learn how their lives were impacted by European settlement. In Generations, you’ll hear stories passed from generations of yesterday to generations of tomorrow, presented alongside a collection of photographs. And in Many Nations, you can view over 600 artefacts significant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Entry to First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka, Melbourne Museum | Courtesy of Melbourne Museum

Yannae Wirrate Weelam

The Journey Home: Artworks from The Torch is an exhibition showcasing the work of incarcerated members of the Indigenous community from south-eastern Australia currently involved in The Torch’s Indigenous Arts in Prison and Community program. The rehabilitation program encourages artistic expression as a means to build confidence, reconnect with culture and integrate back into the community. Running until November 6, 2016, as a part of NAIDOC Week (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee), the exhibition includes The Food We Eat by Frank Hood, Ten Turtles by Gary Scott, Knowing Country by Jeffrey Jackson, Creatures of the Land by Leroy McLaughlin, How the Robin got its Colour by Russell Hood, Goannas by Steve Verde, Karrwingi by Tamara Kirby and Five Clans by Tiffany Hood.


Wurreka, meaning ‘to speak’ in Wemba Wemba, is a tapestry of 74 etched zinc panels that stretch across a curved interior wall in the Birrarung Gallery. Searching for a purpose for the curved wall, the museum ran a design competition. The winning entry was sent by Waanyi artist Judy Watson from Queensland, who went on to spend time observing the local Victorian landscape and visiting culturally significant Aboriginal sites.

Possum skin cloak displays in 'Our Story' section of First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka, Melbourne Museum

Eel Feeding

Every day at 1:45 pm, museum visitors are invited to watch as the short-finned eels in Milarri Pond scoff down their lunch. Their feeder will explain the significance of eels to Indigenous Australians, and you’ll learn about their life cycles and migration patterns up and down the east coast of Australia. Keep an eye out for the pond’s other residents, native silver perch and Macquarie turtles.

Milarri Garden Trail

Explore the Indigenous garden and learn about the importance of waterways and the many traditional uses of native Aboriginal plants as you venture through Milarri Garden on a self-guided trail. On the walk, you will encounter sculptures, a cave with Indigenous paintings, and live animals. The trail through Milarri Gardens connects into the Forest Gallery where there are nine points of interests.

‘Our Story’ section of First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre Dianna Snape Photography | Courtesy of Melbourne Museum

Weaving Workshops

Starting on September 28, 2016, award-winning artist Bronwyn Razem will be imparting weaving techniques in a series of two-hour workshops suitable for those aged 12 and older. The free workshop (included in the museum admission) will teach you traditional and contemporary Indigenous weaving techniques, and you’ll get to make your very own woven artwork to take home.

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