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23 July 2018

Next month on 11 August, Melbourne Museum will open For Country, for Nation, a powerful touring exhibition exploring stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander military service.

For Country, for Nation' exhibition artwork

For Country, for Nation

For Country, for Nation will take visitors through six non-linear thematic sections, which relate military service stories from the perspective of Australian First Nations people. Many of these stories are presented in first-person voice.

Developed in collaboration with respected Aboriginal consultant curator Amanda Jane Reynolds, collaboration occurred with individuals, artists, families, communities and key Elders and Knowledge Holders. Community collaboration was at the heart of this exhibition's development, with the aim of raising awareness about the valuable and selfless military contributions of Australian First Nations people.

Over 200 objects, photographs and artworks are accompanied by dance, song, and sound, resulting in compelling connections between visual and aural storytelling. Viewers will experience a large-scale projection of the ‘Sarpeye’ war song and dance performed by Charlie Company, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment; the first time that this dance has been recorded.

Central objects within For Country, for Nation are two specially-commissioned works by Aunty Clair Bates and Aunty Glenda Nicholls. Aunty Glenda Nicholls's peaceful mixed-media piece invites visitors to contribute a personal offering of remembrance - a poppy, a blessing, or a small keepsake.

Other specially-commissioned artworks from First Peoples artists Andrew Snelgar, Vicki West, Gabriel Nodea, Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri, Tony Albert and Marilyne Nicholls interpret and respond to First Peoples military experiences. Displayed alongside these are works by Gordon Bennett, Albert Namatjira, Jimmy Pike, Julie Dowling, Daniel Boyd, Shirley Macnamara and many more.

For Country, for Nation sits thematically between two other exhibitions currently showing at Melbourne Museum, that explore hardship, determination, and sacrifice. Because of Her, we can! showing in the Birrarung Gallery at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, relates the stories of Victorian First Peoples women who made great impacts in their communities, particularly in the establishment of Aboriginal run services. WW1: Love & Sorrow tells eight very different World War One stories through over 300 photographs and objects.

For Country, for Nation opened Saturday August 11 at Melbourne Museum.