Anne Loxley & Tony Albert

Anne Loxley and Tony Albert. Senior Curator, C3West, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Australia. Kuku Yalanji artist, Sydney, Australia.

Titled The 21st Century Art Museum: Is Context Everything? the CIMAM 2019 Annual Conference took place 15-17 November in Sydney hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Day 3: Sunday 17 November
Beyond the Walls


Remembering and healing: The Blacktown Native Institution

In Sydney we have the Native Institution, the start of Australia’s Stolen Generations – an almost two hundred year-long history of institutional removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Established in Parramatta in 1814, the Native Institution was relocated to Blacktown in 1823 where it operated for six years. After the Blacktown Institution closed in 1829, the site was variously farmed until the 1980s. From then until last year, it was unused and owned by local and state governments. The traditional owners of this land, the Darug nation, have worked for decades for it to be returned to them so they can practice their cultural traditions without external constraints, and so they can honour the history of the Native Institution children and their families.

This reality has been the subject of two collaborations between artists, community, Blacktown Arts Centre, Blacktown Council, the NSW State Government’s Landcom and the MCA’s C3West program. Together this somewhat unwieldy cohort developed and presented two iterations of the Blacktown Native Institution Project, first in 2014–2015 and a second in 2017-2018. Both projects aimed to support Aboriginal custodianship of thinking around the future permanent uses of the site, to honour the Native Institution children and their families and to raise awareness of the Stolen Generations in the broader community.

In October 2018 the Blacktown Native Institution site was handed back to the Darug people - the first such transfer of land to the Darug people. Playing a key supporting role in this process, the Blacktown Native Institution Project required careful navigation through intergenerational trauma, cultural protocols and engaging a non-Indigenous public frequently reluctant to acknowledge this aspect of Australia’s record. The project’s importance was matched by its difficulty. In this presentation project co-director Anne Loxley and artist Tony Albert share key learnings from grappling with such issues as: How do we remember, give justice to and rewrite a complex and traumatic history? What responsibilities do we have? How do we engage with community? With the non-Indigenous public? How do mainstream institutions support at the grassroots level?


Anne Loxley is a Sydney-based curator and writer who works with contemporary artists both in and outside gallery contexts, in communities and in public spaces. As Senior Curator, C3West, for Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, she develops innovative ways for artists to work with businesses and non-arts organisations to address strategic issues and engage with communities. With Felicity Fenner, Loxley programmed the visual arts component of the 2017–2019 Perth Festivals. With Blair French she co-edited Civic Actions: Artists’ Practices Beyond the Museum (MCA Australia, 2017).
Previously she directed Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, the Olympic Co-ordination Authority’s Public Art Program and the National Trust’s S.H. Ervin Gallery. A founding member of the City of Sydney’s Public Art Advisory Panel, a member of the City’s Eora Journey Working Group, and a former Sydney Morning Herald art critic, her work has attracted numerous awards.

Since 2014, with the Blacktown community, artists Tony Albert, Darren Bell, Karla Dickens, Sharyn Egan, Moogahlin Performing Arts, Steven Russell, Kristine Stewart, Leanne Tobin, C3West in collaboration with Blacktown Arts has produced two multifaceted projects about the Blacktown Native Institution.

Tony Albert's practice explores contemporary legacies of colonialism in ways which prompt audiences to contemplate elements of the human condition. Mining imagery and source material from across the globe, Albert draws on both personal and collective histories to explore the ways in which optimism might be utilised to overcome adversity. His practice is concerned with identity and the ascribing of social labels; unpacking what it means to judge and be judged in the absence of recognition or understanding.

Albert's technique and imagery are distinctly contemporary, displacing traditional Australian Aboriginal aesthetics with a kind of urban conceptuality. Appropriating textual references from sources as diverse as popular music, film, fiction, and art history, Albert plays with the tension arising from the visibility, and in-turn, the invisibility of Aboriginal People across the news media, literature, and the visual world. Central to this way of working is Albert's expansive collection of Aboriginalia (a term the artist coined to describe kitschy objects and images that feature naive portrayals of Aboriginality).

Tony Albert is well represented in major collections including the National Gallery of Australia; the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art-Queensland Art Gallery.