ACMI Reconciliation Action Plan

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Cover artwork: 
John Harvey
Canopy 2020
Multi channel video
Commissioned by ACMI


First Nations peoples and cultures are an important part of the fabric of Australian cultural life and national identity. To be a leading cultural institution and a role model to others, ACMI recognises the need to protect and promote First Nations cultures, histories and knowledges, and embed First Nations values as part of our organisational culture.

We acknowledge that for reconciliation to be fully realised, museums must address their colonial past. The past practices of museums, ranging from the collection of First Nations cultural material without respect or proper record keeping, to the racist and stereotypical representations of First Nations peoples in exhibitions, have had a lasting impact on First Nations peoples. We are committed to reimagining the way First Nations peoples are represented in our exhibitions and programs.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) outlines steps to build positive and reciprocal relationships with First Peoples, achieve contemporary best practice in exhibitions, governance and collections management, and to support reconciliation. The RAP establishes activities that support reconciliation in the following areas: Relationships, Respect, Opportunities and Governance. It also incorporates the five elements of the First Peoples Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries.

ACMI and Reconciliation

ACMI is a cultural organisation that exhibits and promotes screen content – across art, film, television, videogames, digital media, video, as well as emerging forms.

ACMI operates on Aboriginal land. The ACMI museum and offices are situated on the lands of the Kulin Nation. ACMI acknowledges and respects the ongoing relationship that the Wurundjeri people, the Boon Wurrung people and other First Nations custodians have with their lands and waters.

To formally demonstrate respect for the traditional custodians of the land, ACMI Board meetings and whole-of-staff meetings are opened with an Acknowledgement of Country. There is also an Acknowledgement of Country at the entrance to the ACMI building, on the ACMI website and as part of the email signatures of all staff members. At public events, such as exhibition openings, ACMI invites an Elder or an appropriate member of the local community to give a Welcome to Country address. Such protocols are a public display of respect and serve to create awareness amongst staff, partners and the general public of the importance of land and place in First Nations cultures.

As part of its vision to make the moving image accessible to all, ACMI welcomes people from diverse backgrounds to participate in, contribute to, and feel ownership of the institution and its exhibitions. For First Nations people to feel ownership of ACMI they must see themselves reflected at the institution. ACMI supports the right of First Nations peoples to tell their own stories and promotes First Nations curation and self-representation in its permanent and temporary exhibitions and programs.

At January 2020 ACMI employed three First Nations curators and an Indigenous person in the role of Building Operations Manager. It offers traineeships to young First Nations people through the Aurora First Nations Internship program. ACMI’s vision is to actively create employment and procurement opportunities for First Nations people at all levels and areas of ACMI business. ACMI recognises that for its First Nations employees to thrive, ACMI must be a welcoming and culturally safe working environment which offers pathways for its First Nations employees to progress their careers at the institution.

At January 2020 ACMI had two Indigenous Board Directors – Rachael Maza (since December 2018) and Darren Dale (since July 2019). In April 2018, the ACMI First Nations Advisory Committee was established. The First Nations Advisory Committee is led by ACMI First Nations staff member Eugenia Flynn and includes ACMI Board director Rachael Maza, ACMI First Nations Curator Louana Sainsbury, Aunty Carolyn Briggs, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, Penny Smallacombe and John Harvey. The Committee works in an advisory capacity with Second Story, BKK Architects and the Renewal Project’s Curatorial Team throughout ACMI’s renewal project.

ACMI provides a platform for First Nations creators and First Nations cultural expression. ACMI hosts a number of cultural events and displays, including panels, film festivals and exhibitions. From December 2018 to April 2019 ACMI held Cleverman: The Exhibition. This exhibition depicted the behind the scenes composition of the sci-fi TV series Cleverman, which explores a series of Aboriginal origin stories in a contemporary context. The exhibition explored the making of Cleverman, showcasing props, costumes and make-up from the series, and was curated by ACMI and co-curated by members of the Cleverman team.

In April 2019, ACMI hosted and sponsored the inaugural BIRRARANGGA Film Festival, directed by Tony Briggs. BIRRARANGGA is a celebration of First Nations filmmakers from across the globe showcasing their unique stories in Melbourne. The biennial festival honours the history of First Nations people and their relationship to the image as a form of expression which is connected to a long background of cultural practices and presented over 40 feature-length and short films from around the world.

Commitment to First Peoples Roadmap

ACMI subscribes to the First Peoples Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries and is committed to reaching the critical pathways outlined in the document through the following five elements for First Nations engagement:

  1. Reimagining Representation: changing the way Indigenous peoples are represented in museums and galleries. ACMI will acknowledge past injustices and promote truth-telling which addresses the colonial history of museums. First Nations perspectives will be amplified at ACMI through exhibitions that are created through strong Indigenous engagement and relationships.
  2. Embedding First Nations Values into Museum and Gallery Business: ACMI looks to embed First Nations values across the organisation in order to make First Nations peoples feel welcome and safe. It will promote a shift in thinking and policy around engagement with First Peoples.
  3. Increasing First Nations Opportunity: ACMI seeks to employ more First Nations people and create a supportive working environment for its First Nations staff members. This can be achieved through acknowledging the skills that First Nations people bring, including knowledge and relationships. ACMI looks to create retention strategies and pathways for professional development to support its First Nations staff.
  4. Two Way Caretaking of Cultural Material: ACMI aims to transition the care of its collections into a shared responsibility which gives First Peoples a voice in how their cultural material is managed.
  5. Connecting with Indigenous Communities: ACMI looks to provide First Nations communities with support in the form of outreach programs and collaborations. ACMI acknowledges that repatriation of cultural material is a priority for First Nations groups.

ACMI has incorporated the five elements for First Nations engagement into the ACMI Reconciliation Action Plan deliverables.


ACMI looks to build trust and develop mutually beneficial relationships with First Nations communities, businesses and individuals. Strong relationships are key to presenting authentic and empowering programs and events and ensuring that there is a shared responsibility for the First Nations material in the ACMI collection.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (pages 6–8).


ACMI acknowledges the importance of First Peoples and their cultures to Australian history and identity. ACMI looks to embed First Nations values across the organisation in order to make First Nations peoples feel welcome and safe. This includes building a better organisational awareness of First Nations cultures, histories and protocols.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (pages 9–10).


First Peoples are encouraged to work and progress their careers at ACMI. ACMI also looks to engage First Nations owned business in the organisation’s supply chain, acknowledging the economic benefits that First Nations business brings to local communities.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (pages 11–12).

Governance, tracking progress and reporting

To ensure that ACMI continually progresses towards its vision for reconciliation, it will regularly review and report against RAP deliverables, noting achievements, challenges and learnings.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (page 13).

Download a pdf version


Georgina Russell

Director of Development and Chair of ACMI’s Reconciliation Working Group