Following the Lonsdale Street fire in 1999, the Koorie Heritage Trust took up temporary residency in the Manchester Building in Flinders Lane before purchasing and relocating to 295 King Street, which remained our home until we moved to Federation Square in June 2015.
At 295 King Street, 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).
In the King Street building, key spaces were named after people who were part of the history of the Trust, either an Elder, a highly respected supporter or a staff or Board member. These people remain an important part of our history, and the memory of their names at 295 King Street are remembered below.
The Darren Pattie-Bux Gallery was originally located to the immediate right of the entrance on the ground floor.
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.
Our original library located on the ground floor and 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.
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.
The Wally Cooper Education Room was located on the first floor.
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.
The Uncle Sandy Atkinson Oral History Suite was located on the second floor.
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.
The Iris Lovett Gardiner Boardroom was located on the second level.
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.