Aboriginal cultures spear thrower

Aboriginal cultures

Learn from First Nations knowledge holders and discover the stories and objects that Queensland Museum cares for. Explore the language, culture and technology of Queensland's Aboriginal people – one of the world’s oldest living continual cultures.


Queensland is unique in being the ancestral home to two First Nations groups. The First Nations collections embody the rich history and living culture of both Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal peoples are the custodians of the oldest surviving culture in the world. Ancestors have lived on Country and shared their culture since time immemorial. Aboriginal communities have personal connections to land, sea, stars and sky, and the First Nations collections represent the diverse cultural identity of Aboriginal people. The collections reflect the historic and contemporary social, political, and economic interactions across the many nations in Australia.

Queensland Museum works directly with Traditional Owners to elevate First Nations art, culture, and voice. Collaborative work with Traditional Owners facilitates access to collections, deepens knowledge sharing and links to ongoing cultural maintenance. While much of the Aboriginal collections at Queensland Museum were founded through a colonial lens, contemporary collecting and research projects facilitated with Traditional Owners are helping to prioritise the perspectives of First Nations people and their ongoing connection to identity and culture within the collection.


Collection highlights

The First Nations collection is rich in the stories it tells and relates to culture, language, ceremony and technology. Queensland Museum is custodian to more than 22,000 objects in the Queensland Aboriginal collection, as well as more than 28,000 items from outside of Queensland and over 12,000 historic photographs.

The Aboriginal cultures collection spans centuries. Some of the oldest items were made by Ancestors well before the 1880s. More recent additions to the collections have been purchased from First Nations artists and communities who create innovative works and draw on both traditional and contemporary styles, designs and techniques in their art practice. These collections represent the diversity of Aboriginal cultures across the state.

Recent additions to the Aboriginal cultures collection includes works by Bindal, Wulgurukaba and Wakka Wakka artist Niketa Law, and Yidinji artist Paul Bong (Bindur-Bullin).

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Research overview

Queensland Museum prioritises collaboration with First Nations communities to research and interpret the collections that are in our care. By recentering and recording First Nations voices, language and stories, these collections can be appropriately cared for and shared with our communities and audiences.

Current research with First Nations collections at Queensland Museum investigates how museums can continue to decolonise the collections, by emphasising the agency of Traditional Owners and Knowledge holders. Collections and Research staff across the museum network are also collaborating on ways to incorporate First Nations knowledge into broader fields of research – in areas such as cultural and social history, biodiversity and geoscience.


Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre (TATSICC) Collection Project
Since 2005, the TATSICC has been a collaborative space, showcasing the significant history, living culture and heritage of Townsville’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In 2020, the collection of historic and contemporary objects showcased at the Cultural Centre was relocated to a new temporary home: Queensland Museum Tropics. At the request of TATSICC the collection will remain in the care of the museum until a new cultural centre is established in Townsville.

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Dyirbal language project
The collection of items from the Dyirbal language region in north Queensland is expansive. The collection includes historic items collected as early as the 1800s, to contemporary works made by artists from Dyirbal Country.

The Dyirbal language project is part of a larger focus of Queensland Museum to decolonise the collection and associated collection knowledge. This ongoing project aims to incorporate Dyirbal language terms into collection records, to prioritise First Nations language words and phrases relevant to the collection over western translations.

First Nations Foyer
Queensland Museum Tropics is Queensland Museum’s northern most campus, situated in Gurambilbarra (Townsville). In the museum’s First Nations Foyer, a large-scale mural display welcomes visitors to the building. This ongoing display showcases emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists with a connection to the Townsville region and features a new artist’s work each year.

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Find out more

Did you know you don't have to come to the museum to see our collection?

Over 5,000 items of our Cultures & Histories collection are now accessible online for free. All you need is your device and a little bit of inspiration to explore Queensland’s cultural and natural heritage.

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