Panel: Telling National Stories

A waterhole in the Australian bush, surrounded by rocks, a few eucalyptus trees and sandy dirt. The blue sky is reflected in the water
02 March
Arc Cinema
FREE (Bookings essential)

How do we understand our collective history? Where are the lines drawn between truth and mythology? How do contemporary interpretations shape perceptions of the past? And what role does the artist play in presenting historical events for modern audiences? 

Join us for a special panel conversation as part of our month-long Unreliable Histories series, in which we invite audiences to question the framing of history and cultural mythology. 

Curator Margo Neale (National Museum of Australia), Professor Frank Bongiorno AM (Australian National University) and filmmaker Lawrence Johnston will unpack the power of ‘national narratives’ and explore what it means to share stories about national history. 



Margo Neale is Head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges, Senior Indigenous Curator, and Executive Advisor to the Director at the National Museum of Australia (NMA). She was inaugural Director of the Gallery of First Australians at the NMA, having previously worked in Arnhem Land, and at the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Queensland Art Gallery. Margo is an award-winning author, co-author and editor of 13 books including Songlines: The Power and Promise. Her exhibition highlights include both contemporary art and traditional artefacts such as the international touring exhibition Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, the national retrospective exhibition on Emily Kame Kngwarreye that toured Japan, and Rituals of Life at the Vatican. Neale is a Gumbaynggirr woman of Aboriginal and Irish descent with clan affiliations to the Kulin and Wiradjuri nations. She is the most senior Indigenous art gallery and museum curator in Australia. 

Professor Frank Bongiorno AM is an academic and author who has published extensively on Australian history. His research interests include Australian political, cultural and labour history, as well as Australian historiography: the study of how history is written. Bongiorno is a professor of history at the Australian National University and President of the Australian Historical Association, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2019. Bongiorno’s books include The Sex Lives of Australians: A History, The Eighties: The Decade That Transformed Australia and Dreamers and Schemers: A Political History of Australia

Lawrence Johnston is an award-winning Australian writer, director and producer. His 1994 film Eternity (which was restored by the NFSA) tells the story of notable Sydney street artist Arthur Stace, and won numerous awards including Best Documentary Feature Film at the Los Angeles Documentary Festival. Johnston’s 1996 drama feature Life captures life in an isolated prison section for HIV-positive inmates. His 2005 documentary short The Dream of Love explores many of the challenges of 20th century Australian family life through of the lens of his parents’ troubled marriage. Other film credits include Once a Queen (2006), Fallout (2013) and Neon (2015). Neon, a documentary about the history and influence of neon signs, will play at the NFSA from 1 to 10 March as part of the Neon Nights program.



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