Biennale of Sydney

Blacktown Native Institution

Blacktown Native Institution Site, nura bayali (country speaking) on the day after BNI handover, 2018. Courtesy Julie Bukari Webb. Photograph: Julie Bukari Webb

Blacktown Native Institution

Born in the Dreaming
Oakhurst, Australia / Dharug Nura
The Blacktown Native Institute Site is held in trust for future Dharug generations by Dharug Strategic Management Group, which oversaw the handover of the site back to Dharug people on 13 October 2018.


I’m born from creation, alive since the dreaming. I hold knowledge and stories told, untold, emerging. I’ve shed tears, shed blood, taken life, had life taken. I have loved, nurtured, provided. I have been silenced, mistreated and stolen from. Yet here I am. Here I am with my children gathering, my Creator holding me up. I am the Blacktown Native Institution site. But before that and into the future I am wiyanga bamal nura (mother earth country) to my people.

Gulbangali Dharug Nura

GULBANGALI for honouring

gul-banga-li

Nura (country) speaks. The Blacktown Native Institution (BNI) site is the artist. Guided by her, as a site of Dreaming, she’s life, ceremony and songlines. She represents identity, traumas, traditions, culture, our struggle and survival. She is resilient.

Since colonisation her voice hasn’t been heard. Her right to express her truth, ignored. Through ceremony and art, country will rejuvenate, regenerate, heal and resonate our voices and continued and unbroken connection to nura as Dharug people.

We have a profound understanding that the Dharug, as first contact people, know that trauma, deprivation, loss and genocide in Australia started here first. It spread insipidly like dark feelers across all First Nation countries. We believe healing needs to, therefore, start here too and resonate throughout all First Nation countries like a very big ripple in a pond.    

The BNI site has a history prior to invasion and prior to being a site of the earliest Stolen Generations. We as descendants of nura and as descendants of her children, wish to contribute to her entire story through an artistic lens, revegetation and rejuvenation. The project aims to relinquish colonial shackles, acknowledge trauma, enable healing and to share knowledge from times immemorial bestowing the opportunity for her voice to speak and to show us her natural artistic beauty. It is a journey – sometimes confronting, sometimes joyful, always humble – but one we wish to take with anyone the BNI can help to heal and learn from.

Our event incorporates six public gatherings, commencing in February 2020, to promote the site and its history and encourage community cohesion through being, connecting, art, culture and ceremony. Grounded, meaningful and honest, all the activities and art-forms will inform, educate and encourage healing whilst maintaining the integrity of the site and of country, for country, for the BNI herself and for Dharug people. 

Our gatherings explore pre- and post-invasion histories, storying, language and perspectives through site visits and performances expressed through the genres of dance, song, art, revegetation, performance, traditional and cultural practices and ceremony.

This culminates in a ceremonial gathering and unveiling of works by Dharug artists: Leanne Tobin, Vanessa Possum, Leanne Mulgo Watson, Adam King, Julie Bukari Webb and Corina Wiali Norman.

Blacktown Arts and Dharug community have had a long-term creative partnership involving the site of the Blacktown Native Institution.

Local communities and artists have worked and organised around the Blacktown Native Institution (BNI) site and its significance over the last 10 years. There has been sustained artistic conversations and cultural work on the site, particularly since 2008 when Blacktown Arts developed an exhibition revealing the beginnings of Black(s)Town from a First Nations artist’s perspective. Since 2013, The Blacktown Native Institution site, The Dharug Nation, Blacktown Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art (C3West), GHD and Landcom joined together on a series of artistic and community activations at the BNI site, supporting the return of the site to Dharug Strategic Management Group in 2018.

The Gulbangali Dharug Nura project of Dharug Strategic Management Group is supported by Blacktown City Council, Create NSW and Blacktown Arts in conjunction with the Crown Resorts Foundation. 

Exhibited at