First Nations Speaker Series

The First Nations Speaker Series amplifies and elevates First Nations voices.

The First Nations Speaker Series commenced in 2021 and has provided a platform for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, authors, artists, professionals, and curators to share ideas about history, heritage and culture.

Established by GML Heritage with Museums of History NSW and the Research Centre for Deep History at the Australian National University, the First Nations Speaker Series facilitated holistic, community-led, and thought-provoking discussions, and supported truth-telling through First Nations voices and storytelling.

Previous speakers have included Professor John Maynard, Tony Albert, Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, Wayne Brennan, Professor Brenda L Croft, Blak Douglas, Dennis Golding, Dr Danièle Hromek, Dr Terri Janke, Dr Virginia Keft, Dr Leah Lui-Chivizhe, Alison Page, Matt Poll, Nathan mudyi Sentance, Dr Raymond Kelly, Aunty Michelle Perry, Reuben Mellor, Yanada Hepi Te Huia, Hayden Walsh and Peter White.

Catch up on previous talks

Aboriginal Languages Trust

This panel features NSW Aboriginal Languages Week Ambassadors, rapper BARKAA (Chloe Quayle) and comedian Andy Saunders, who will reflect on how Language has impacted their family, what insights have been gleaned through their Ambassador journeys, and why the celebration of Languages today is so important. Chloe will be joined by her mother, Cleonie Quayle, and Andy will be joined by his sister Joedie Lawler.


In conversation with Rhoda Roberts AO

Hear renowned Widjabul, Bundjalung artistic director, Rhoda Roberts AO in conversation with Head of First Nations Cultural Engagement at the Museums of History NSW and Gamilaroi Murri, Peter White as they explore her stellar career as a journalist, broadcaster, actor, producer, writer, and arts advisor, and the important work and legacy of creating spaces to amplify First Nations voices and stories.


Fight for Liberty and Freedom with Professor John Maynard

This talk examines the rise of the first united all Aboriginal political organisation, the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association (AAPA), which formed in Australia in 1924.

Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews: Resisting Genocide through D’harawal Relatedness

Researcher and lecturer Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, of the D’harawal nation, explores the Appin Massacre and resisting genocide through the lens of D’harawal relatedness.⁠ While there have been attempts to document and justify the massacre, these explorations have been limited to historical archives that have been written, and analysed, through the lens of the invaders.⁠

Nathan ‘mudyi’ Sentance: Remembering and Re-storying

How do we get audiences to engage with uncomfortable histories, especially histories related to the ongoing impact of settler colonialism? Wiradjuri librarian and museum educator, Nathan mudyi Sentance,  has been asking this question for over a decade. He discusses how he has worked to create more space in galleries, libraries, archives, and museums for First Nations representation and truth telling.

Hayden Walsh: Creating change within institutions and ourselves

Hayden Walsh is a proud Aboriginal man from Sydney, and is currently the First Nations Advisor at Sydney Living Museums. In this edition of our First Nations Speaker Series, Hayden discusses the ways in which cultural institutions can improve their engagement and connection with First Nations people and community.

Two ways of walking together, Science and Culture: A community based Aboriginal rock art project in the Blue Mountains

Wayne Brennan is an archaeologist of Gamilaraay descent, who specialises in Aboriginal rock art and has lived and conducted research in the Blue Mountains for over 35 years. Wayne has a passion for rock art conservation, ecology, and is strongly committed to his personal growth and the wellbeing of others, through connection with country and culture.

Advancing Aboriginal Led Approaches to Enterprise and Economic Development in NSW

Heidi Norman offered insights about Aboriginal led approaches to enterprise and economic development.  Focusing on NSW and the work of Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs), she mapped these approaches and identify some key themes along with the limits and possibilities of Aboriginal-led collective enterprise and economic development.

In conversation with Dennis Golding

Dennis Golding and Sydney Living Museums’ Head of First Nations Cultural Engagement Peter White  discuss Golding’s ‘Cast in cast out’ series, which explores dispossession and colonial occupation and is inspired by his childhood on The Block, Redfern.

Yarning & Art: Cultural wellness and caring for mob in the museum

Dr Virginia Keft shares insights into ‘Art Yarns: For Older and Elder Mob’ – a culturally responsive contemporary art program she established and delivered through the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia.

Kurrwa* to Kartak**: hand–made/held–ground

How can notions of home, community, and Country be represented within histories of both endurance and dislocation? Brenda L. Croft presented a Gurindji-specific historiography that engaged with the pastoral impact on Gurindji Country from the late nineteenth century, the experience of Stolen Generations members and their descendants, and contemporary Gurindji experience into the 21st century.

Working with Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property: An Introduction to the True Tracks ICIP Protocols

Terri Janke spoke at the First Nations Speaker Series on Gadigal Country, The Mint (Gold Melting Room), Sydney on 9th December 2021. Watch a recording of the presentation below, introduced by GML CEO, Sharon Veale.

Connecting with Country

First Nations peoples have been caring for Country for more than 65,000 years, long before European intervention. How can we learn from this knowledge and experience by collaborating in our approach to planning, building and designing on Country? In this panel, speakers will reflect on the Government Architect NSW’s 2020 Connecting with Country Draft Framework as a basis for this discussion.

Articulating Sydney’s Aboriginal Past in the Public Realm with Matt Poll

Matt Poll is the newly appointed manager of Indigenous programs at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

In October 2021, Matt Poll presented ‘Articulating Sydney’s Aboriginal Past in the Public Realm’.  Matt reflected on new additions, and historically significant examples of where consulting with Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities’ representatives has built consultation frameworks and templates for increasing the visibility of Sydney’s Aboriginal past into future place-based projects in Sydney’s built environment.

Watch a recording of the talk or read a summary here.

Ongoing Responsibilities and Findings Answers, with Dr Leah Lui-Chivizhe

In May 2021, Dr Leah Lui-Chivizhe presented ‘Ongoing Responsibilities’ and Finding Answers’, about the challenges of working with collections gathered during colonisation—specifically ancestral remains—and the unresolved issues this creates for First Nations people.

Read a summary of her talk here.

Photo: Dr Leah Lui-Chivizhe presenting at GML Heritage Sydney, May 2021.

About the First Nations Speaker Series

This series creates space for a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to talk about history, heritage and culture. Join us to listen to, and engage with, a range of presenters who will discuss key themes in First Nations heritage and culture and issues affecting people today.

Key themes for future First Nations Speaker Series may include:

  • Nature/culture
  • Connection to country
  • Ancestral remains/Repatriation
  • Destruction of cultural heritage and cultural harm
  • Heritage reform (Local and National)
  • Recent and contemporary Aboriginal connections to place
  • Deep history/time
  • Histories of place
  • Hidden histories
  • Shared histories
  • Settler colonialism
  • More-than-human relations