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QM announces inaugural First Nations Fellows

Joseph Guenzler, Queensland Museum announces inaugural recipients of First Nations Fellowship, National Indigenous Times, 30 April 2024

L-R: Dr Bianca Beetson, Dr Jim Thompson, Cheryl Leavy, Dylan Sarra, Minister Leeanne Enoch, Dr Harry Van Issum, Prof. Margaret Shiel, Cathy Taylor. (Image: Supplied).

Cheryl Leavy and Dylan Sarra have been named as the inaugural recipients of the First Nations Fellowship 2024 by the Queensland Museum.

The announcement was made during the unveiling of the museum’s First Nations Strategy, which seeks to redefine its connection with Indigenous communities and foster a more inclusive, fair, and unified future.

First Nations Fellowship winner – Cheryl Leavy. (Image: Supplied).

Each Fellow will be awarded a $20,000 stipend to conduct a research project using the Queensland Museum’s collections, aimed at enriching Indigenous wisdom and offering fresh insights over the coming year.

The First Nations Fellowship, a groundbreaking venture for Queensland Museum, was created to offer Indigenous people opportunities for professional development and research in the arts, cultural heritage, and galleries, libraries, and museums sectors.

A proud Kooma and Nguri woman, Ms Leavy hails from the western and central regions of Queensland.

With a distinguished background, she has spearheaded significant government initiatives, overseeing cultural heritage protection and management.

Her leadership extended to pivotal programs such as World Heritage, Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger, and Cape York Tenure Resolution initiatives.

“I’m honoured to be one of the first Queensland Museum Fellowship recipients alongside Dylan,” she said.

“During my Fellowship I hope to engage with materials in the State Collection relating to the Kooma (Guwamu) people, our culture and heritage, and social experiences, and use this as part of my ongoing creative practice.”

She’s also a writer in her traditional language, Kooma (Guwamu), which is sadly considered critically endangered.

Ms Leavy focuses on revitalising the language and celebrating its continued use.

A proud Gooreng Gooreng man, Dylan Sarra hails from Bundaberg.

First Nations Fellowship winner – Dylan Sarra. (Image: Supplied).

He’s an Indigenous artist who utilises various mediums including print, digital works, and sculpture to delve into Indigenous experiences and the role of art in language expression.

Since 2021, Dylan has been studying the story of the Bundaberg Burnett River Rocks, especially the petroglyphs, and the ongoing effects of the Queensland Government’s actions in the 1970s when these were taken from Country.

“This Fellowship will help me explore the art of storytelling through my continuing research into the cultural significance and meaning of the petroglyphs of the Burnett River,” Mr Sarra said.

“I’m proud to represent my Country through the Queensland Museum Fellowship opportunity and I know together with Cheryl Leavy, we will forge a path that will amplify First Nations voices that feature our cultural practices across the museum sector.”

Queensland Museum chief executive Dr Jim Thompson said the Fellowship will allow the recipients to develop a research project using Queensland Museum’s collections.

“I’d like to congratulate Cheryl and Dylan for being the inaugural recipients of our First Nations Fellowships, and I know this work is critical to allowing First Nations stories to be told,” Dr Thompson said.

“For the next 12 months they will have access to our collections and staff expertise that will build professional skills and knowledge about museum curation and artefacts for First Nations materials.”

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Fellowships would help enhance Queensland Museum’s important preservation work.

“Queensland Museum is committed to protecting and enriching First Nations culture, stories, tradition and Indigenous knowledge for current and future generations of Queenslanders,” Ms Enoch said.

“Our investment in Queensland Museum is part of the 10-year Creative Together strategy for elevating First Nations art and culture on the global stage ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and supporting the Path to Treaty, truth-telling and healing.”

The Fellowship, generously backed by the Queensland Museum Foundation, welcomes applications from Indigenous people across all disciplines or professions for projects utilising Queensland Museum’s collections.