The Koorie Heritage Trust was established in 1985 by Ron Merkel QC, the late Ron Castan AM QC and a respected Koorie elder.
The Trust emerged from a need for greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of Koorie culture throughout the community, and the immediate need for Koorie cultural heritage material to be controlled, managed and curated by Koorie people. Since then, the Trust’s activities and programmes have expanded to address a need in the community for the collection and preservation of Koorie oral histories for future generations; a family history service that connects members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants to family, culture and community; cultural education program and activities; and a retail outlet for the creative art and design expression of our Koorie community.
295 King Street
Originally housed at the Museum of Victoria, in 2003 the Koorie Heritage Trust took up residency at 295 King Street until our relocation to the Yarra Building at Federation Square in June 2015.
Our many friends, supporters and community members still fondly remember our King Street home.
A central replica scar tree that rose from the ground floor reaching almost to the second floor, provided a metaphorical anchor to the building. Cast from a latex mold of the original tree located on Ebenezer Mission Station, the replica tree was created c.1988 for “Koorie”, the Trust’s first major exhibition at Museum Victoria.
Over three levels, 295 King Street boasted exhibition spaces, a retail shop, library, education and general purpose meeting rooms and workshop areas, recording studios and performance spaces. The intention was to bring together “a rich Koorie presence through form, colour and social vibrancy: a Koorie heritage that is integral to the process of interconnecting with a past. … the design of the Cultural Centre sought to create an environment that maintained a Koorie cultural meaning but prioritised a living Koorie culture over the historical representations of Aboriginality” (Beth Charles 2006, The Koorie Heritage Trust’s Cultural Centre: Unmasking the ‘In Between’, PhD thesis, La Trobe University, Victoria).
The design of our spaces at Federation Square continue to pay tribute to our time at King Street. In designing our new spaces, Lyons Architecture working with Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV), incorporated original design features from King Street into the fabric of our new spaces as memories of our past. These original design features include the original metal trees from the ground and first floor permanent exhibition space at King Street, the boomerang design decal on the entrance doors, and Bunjil the creator, which perched atop the replica scar tree. There were other design features of the King Street building that we were unable to bring with us including particularly the replica tree. As a memory of the tree, IADV’s Jefa Greenaway designed a table in the shape of a canoe referencing the scar.
In the King Street building, key spaces were also named after people who were a part of the history of the Trust, either an Elder or a highly respected supporter. These people and their memory remain important to us and while we are currently looking at renaming our new spaces using the original names, the people who are honoured are remembered below.
Darren Pattie-Bux Gallery
The Darren Pattie-Bux Gallery was originally located to the immediate right of the entrance on the ground floor at 295 King Street.
Darren worked for the Koorie Heritage Trust between 1998 and 2000. He was a member of the curatorial team caring for the Trust’s collection of artworks and artefacts.
He also made a name for himself as an artist, working mainly in wood. While working at the Trust, Darren participated in a Koorie arts course at RMIT where he discovered an interest in – and developed a talent for photography.
Darren also contributed to the Trust as an educator and was always willing to share his knowledge and culture with others.
Aged 29, Darren died in April 2001 and is sorely missed. He was a much loved and valued member of the Koorie Heritage Trust family.
Uncle Stewart Murray OAM Reference Library
Our original library located on the ground floor of 295 King Street was named after Uncle Stewart Murray OAM.
Uncle Stewart, was a respected Elder of the Wemba Wemba people, who spent the majority of his life working in Aboriginal affairs. As a young man, he also enlisted with the AIF and fought for his country in New Guinea. Later he served in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore as well as Japan.
Uncle Stewart held many positions in the Koorie community including Director of the Aborigines Advancement League, the Regional Manager of Aboriginal Hostels, and co-founder of both the Aboriginal Funeral Service and Aboriginal Legal Service.
Uncle Stewart was also Chairperson of the Victorian Aboriginal Lands Council, a member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines & Torres Strait Islanders, and served on the National Tribal Council. He was the first Koorie to be appointed a Justice of the Peace.
Sadly, Uncle Stewart passed away on June 1, 1989, aged 63 years.
Aunty Joyce Johnson Gallery
At King Street, the Aunty Joyce Johnson Gallery adjoined our permanent exhibition space on the first floor.
Aunty Joyce Johnson (nee Taylor) was born in Western Victoria, a Gunditjmara woman and had a distinguished career in the arts and in Aboriginal affairs. During the Second World War, her family moved to Melbourne and Aunty Joyce worked in a factory assisting the war effort.
Fiercely proud of her people, Aunty Joyce became very active in Koorie affairs. She was appointed a director of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and served as the secretary to the Aborigines Advancement League and the United Council of Aboriginal Women. She was also a member of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Ngwala Willumbong Co-operative. Aunty Joyce worked for, and was a co-director of, the Victorian Nindethana Theatre Company.
Aunty Joyce passed away in 1982, aged 56 years.
Uncle Wally Cooper Education Room
The Wally Cooper Education Room was located on the first floor of 295 King Street.
A member of the Stolen Generation, Uncle Wally was a Yorta Yorta man who was dedicated to the teaching, sharing and maintenance of traditional Koorie culture since childhood. He was an active member of the Koorie Heritage Trust since it was established in 1985 and has worked as a Cultural Officer and Curator of the travelling exhibition Koorie.
Uncle Wally was a past Chairperson of the Trust, and served as an advisor on Indigenous issues to various councils and committees. Uncle Wally also worked for many years reconnecting Koorie prisoners across the State with their culture and identity.
Uncle Wally sadly passed away in 2015.
Uncle John Sandy Atkinson AM Oral History Suite
The Uncle Sandy Atkinson Oral History Suite was located on the second floor of 295 King Street.
Uncle Sandy was a practitioner of oral history for many years and is respected for his knowledge and experience in recording the stories of his people.
A Moibidan man and an active member of the Bangerang community, Uncle Sandy was a Rotarian and a founder of both the Shepparton Keeping Place and the Rhumbalara Medical Co-operative.
Uncle Sandy was active in Aboriginal affairs for most of his life and his many government positions have included Chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council as well as Commissioner for the Aboriginal Development Commission. Uncle Sandy was the first Indigenous person to serve on a UNESCO committee and was a central part of the Koorie Heritage Trust since the early days of the organisaiton, including sitting as a member of its Board of Management.
Uncle Sandy sadly passed away in 2016.
Aunty Iris Lovett-Gardiner Boardroom
The Iris Lovett Gardiner Boardroom was located on the second level of 295 King Street.
Aunty Iris was a highly respected Gunditjmara Elder who was committed to advancing the development of Koorie organisations. Her achievements include establishing the Aboriginal Community Elders Services (the Aunty Iris Lovett-Gardiner Caring Place), the first of its kind in Victoria. She was fiercely proud of her people and was a custodian of cultural knowledge. She shared this in many ways including teaching history at the Koori Kollij and publishing her story “Lady of the Lake”.
Among her academic achievements, Aunty Iris completed her Master of Applies Science in Natural & Cutlrual Heritage Interpretation, aged in her 70’s.
Aunty Iris was a board member of the Koorie Heritage Trust until 2001, when she became one of the Trust’s patrons.
Aunty Iris sadly passed away in 2004.