Axe (kodj). Wood, stone, resin. King George Sound, Albany, c. 1830s From Yurlmun Mia Boodja exhibition

The Western Australian Museum and its partners have won two prestigious achievement awards presented by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA), for excellence in outstanding collaborations that delivered extraordinary cultural experiences around significant Western Australian stories.

The exhibition Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja (Returning to Mokare's Home Country), won the award for Best Practice in Collaboration Between Government and Non-Government Organisations; and the Dirk Hartog 1616 Project, which the Museum led to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first European landing in Western Australia at Cape Inscription in Shark Bay, won the award for Best Practice in Collaboration Across Government Agencies.

WA Museum CEO Alec Coles said the success of both the Yurlmun exhibition and the Dirk Hartog 1616 Project were a result of extensive collaboration to ensure the real stories of both communities were told in authentic, innovative and engaging ways. “Collaboration has come to define our work,” Mr Coles said. “There is no doubt that the sum – the outcome is greater than the parts.” Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja means ‘returning to Mokare’s home Country’. The exhibition showcased the significant shared history of Albany’s Menang people and early European settlers through the historic objects on display.

“Co-curated by the Albany Heritage Reference Group Aboriginal Corporation, the Yurlmun exhibition was a small but very powerful exhibition that described how relationships between the Menang community and early settlers evolved as Albany developed, as well as addressing the important and current issues of reconciliation,” Mr Coles said.

“Yurlmun is an astounding project that forged new ground in relationships between collecting institutions and source communities. The loan of a whole collection of British Museum objects back to Country and community – to their place of origin – is unprecedented, it has never happened before in Australia. We are grateful to the British Museum as well as our colleagues from the National Museum of Australia and, especially, the Menang people.

“This exhibition is a significant step in reconnecting museum collections with people and place, and in reconnecting communities with their cultural heritage. The story of friendship and the sharing of gifts between friends is also something that everyone can relate to and this has increased interest in, and the understanding of, Menang language and knowledge and the importance of our shared cultural history.”

The objects, including stone axes, spears, spear throwers and knives were collected from the area in the early 1800s by settlers including local surgeon Dr Alexander Collie, who became close friends with significant Menang man Mokare.

In 2016, the Western Australian Museum also led cross-government initiatives to recognise and celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first known European contact with Western Australia. The outcomes of the Dirk Hartog 1616 Project included an interpretive trail at Cape Inscription highlighting the maritime history of Shark Bay; a contemporary and engaging public art piece on the Denham foreshore; an innovative interactive multimedia experience in the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre covering 400 years of European voyages to southern oceans; a new website commemorating the landing and presenting the story of early European involvement in Australia including contact with Indigenous peoples; a travelling exhibition called Accidental Encounters about early European contacts with Western Australia; and the temporary exhibition Travellers and Traders in the Indian Ocean World, featuring significant objects including the original Hartog Dish, which was opened by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

Mr Coles said in order to successfully deliver these significant and varied outcomes, the WA Museum stepped outside the conventional “museum” paradigm and drove public engagement through seven separate and innovative strands, employing multi-disciplinary approaches, cutting edge technology and mixed media to engage the public in the story in unexpected ways and prompt, then feed, their interest in further exploring the narratives.

He particularly applauded the key partners in the endeavour: the Shire of Shark Bay, the Gascoyne Development Commission, the State’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Mr Coles also acknowledged the Malgana people as the traditional custodians of the Shark Bay area.

“Bringing these projects to fruition involved active collaboration and partnership-building at multiple levels, with the Museum working successfully with a unique combination of stakeholders to deliver the initiatives on time and on budget despite the challenges of remote but key locations in the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay region,” Mr Coles said.

“I would like to congratulate everyone who helped to deliver these very significant cultural experiences for the benefit of the people of Western Australia.”


Media contact:
Flora Perrella, Media and Communications Coordinator
Western Australian Museum. (08) 6552 7804