• Special exhibition
    Opens 22 May 2021
  • Exhibition Hall
    Access via Hintze Hall
  • Tickets
    Free General Admission
  • Guided tours
    Book a guided experience

This land was not peacefully settled - Unsettled uncovers the untold histories behind this nation’s foundation story.

In this powerful exhibition, First Nations voices reveal the hidden stories of devastation, survival and the fight for recognition. These first-hand accounts are presented through long hidden historical documents, large-scale artworks, immersive experiences and never-before-seen objects from the Australian Museum collections and beyond.

First Nations Elders including Uncle Waubin Richard Aken (Kaurareg), Aunty Fay Moseley (Wiradjuri) and Uncle Noel Butler (Budawang), share their lived experiences.

Featuring the work of contemporary artists including Ryan Presley, Tony Albert, Charlotte Allingham (Coffin Birth), Jai Darby Walker and Danie Mellor, this free exhibition interrogates the lasting impacts of colonisation and the denial of Indigenous sovereignty.

With more than 80 significant cultural objects and over 100 contributions by First Nations peoples across the country, Unsettled illuminates the power of truth-telling to realise change. Understanding our shared past is an important step towards healing for a shared future.


Exhibition object highlights

Piracy by Tony Albert

Piracy is a sandblasted commemorative plate responding to the 250th anniversary of Lieutenant James Cook’s east coast voyage. By titling the piece Piracy and superimposing the motif of a skull and crossbones over the image of a distinctively European ship, the work brings to the forefront what Cook’s voyage represents to many First Nations peoples: an act of piracy and theft.

Learn more about Piracy by Tony Albert, acquired for the First Nations Cultural Collections at the Australian Museum and on display in Unsettled from 22 May 2021.

Scarred (Ancestral Vase) 2020 by Uncle Kevin “Sooty” Welsh, Wailwan.

The marks etched into the stoneware clay of Uncle Kevin “Sooty” Welsh ceramic works such as this Ancestral Vase was inspired by his Wailwan Ancestors’ practice of carving designs onto trees. One distinctive style of the south-east region of Australia is carving, and by acquiring cultural objects from regional NSW, the Australian Museum is ensuring it represents the vibrant diversity of cultural expressions across First Nations.

Discover more about Scarred, acquired for the First Nations Cultural Collections at the Australian Museum and on display in Unsettled from 22 May 2021.

Weaving Woman by Genevieve Stewart

Weaving Woman by Kuku Yalanji artist Genevieve Stewart is a powerful statement on memory, resilience and strength of First Nations peoples, focusing on a cultural practice that historically was forbidden by colonial governments.

Learn more about the artwork Weaving Woman, acquired for the First Nations Cultural Collections at the Australian Museum and on display in Unsettled from 22 May 2021.


Curators’ Acknowledgement

Laura McBride and Dr Mariko Smith

We pay our respects and dedicate the Unsettled exhibition to the people and other Beings who keep the law of this land; to the Elders and Traditional Owners of all the knowledges, places, and stories in this exhibition; and to the Ancestors and Old People for their resilience and guidance.

We advise that there are some confronting topics addressed in this exhibition, including massacres and genocide. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be advised that there may be images of people who have passed away.


We acknowledge the generous donations towards the Unsettled exhibition and programming from:




The acquisition of cultural materials for Signal Fires was funded by a grant from: