New exhibition offers community journey through Wadawurrung Country

May 23, 2024 BY

Ferne Millen with one of the photographs from Journey on Wadawurrung Country. Photos: PETER MARSHALL

AN IMMERSIVE exhibition sharing the sights, sounds and stories of Wadawurrung Country and its Traditional Owners is set to open in Torquay next week.

Entitled Yaneekan-werreeyt Wadawurrung Dja (Journey on Wadawurrung Country), the free exhibition weaves together the portraits and stories of Wadawurrung Elders and family members with the sounds and landscapes of Country.

Visitors will have the opportunity to hear the stories of these Traditional Owners, some of whom are part of the Stolen Generation, along with the captivating sounds of the Barre Warree Yaluk (Barwon River), parrwang (the magpie) and the dawn chorus over Wurdi Youang (the You Yangs).

Together, in close consultation with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, photographer and artistic director Ferne Millen and sound artist Vicki Hallett, have collaborated to develop the exhibition which will begin on Tuesday, May 28 and run until Sunday, June 16.

Housed upstairs at Grant Pavilion at 11 Kuwarrk Lane, the exhibition will be open every day between 10am-3pm, excluding the public holiday on June 10.

Millen said the exhibition was born from a place of curiosity.

“I always wanted to know about the First Peoples of this land so I could understand more about the history of this place in which I live and work, but I just found it really hard as a non-Aboriginal person to know how to find out information,” she said.

Given the “gift of time” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Millen, along with friend and Traditional Owner Corrina Eccles, developed a pilot version of the project, conducting a smoking ceremony and the first test interview at Millen’s home studio in Jan Juc.

“In a very authentic way, that smoking ceremony set alight the project,” Millen said.

Millen has collaborated with sound artist Vicki Hallett and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation on the exhibition.


Since then, the exhibition has been on its own journey, incorporating the work of Vicki Hallett and evolving through each iteration, from its first showings in 2021 at the Geelong Arts Centre and the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, to its rendition in 2022 at the Potato Shed in Drysdale.

“It’s nice to bring it home [to Torquay] and be proud of bringing something together that seeks to engage with community through story and art,” Millen said.

“It is also an educational experience for all to celebrate the Traditional Custodians of this place.

“In the spirit of this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme, ‘Now More Than Ever’, we can begin to listen deeply and learn.

“I think it’s really beautiful to have [the exhibition] in a non-traditional space, not a gallery, because this is for everyone.”

For the first time, Traditional Owners will also be onsite every day of the exhibition to answer questions or to simply have a yarn with visitors.

“What I think people can take away from this [exhibition], and if it’s only this, is learning a few snippets of language,” Millen said.

“Language is the essence of storytelling and, I think, if we allow ourselves to hear other people’s stories, we can be proud of their resilience, their courage in sharing their story and acknowledge the love they have shown to care for Country over tens of thousands of years.

“This can help us to move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

She encouraged those interested to also download the Wadawurrung language app to further engage with the language.

For more information, head to surfcoast.vic.gov.au

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