Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today opened Rituals of Life, an exhibition of Australia Indigenous artefacts at the Vatican Ethnological Museum in the Holy See, as part of Una Notte Australiana.
Una Notte Australiana, is an evening dedicated to Australia and, in particular, the cultures of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The night opened with a conference that recognised the work of missionaries such as the Sisters of Saint Joseph - the order founded by Blessed Mary MacKillop - and also focussed on the important work of reconnecting collections of artefacts with their Indigenous communities of origin.
The exhibition features Aboriginal artworks sent from Catholic missions in the north and west of Australia for a Vatican exhibition in 1925. The Australian collection is located at the entrance to the Vatican ethnological museum, and is the first collection visitors see upon entering the museum.
"This evening and this exhibition is the culmination of a year of important collaboration between the Vatican Museums and the National Museum of Australia," said Mr Rudd.
"The Australian Government greatly appreciates the Vatican Museums' outstanding commitment to this project, which means a great deal to the Indigenous communities involved."
After the inauguration, a group of young Indigenous students from the Australian Catholic University, who have made the journey to Rome to celebrate the canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop, performed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island dances. Internationally-renowned didgeridoo player William Barton also performed with the Rome-based Australian Waratah Quartet.
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