Djeembana Whakaora



Djeembana is a Boon Wurrung word meaning a place to gather for special occasions.

Whakaora is a te reo Māori word meaning to heal or convalesce.

Together they tell us this is a place to gather to heal.


Background image: Dried, cracked ochre and clay, embedded with shells and seaweed represent a midden site. A midden is sign of a thriving, healthy community. Audio by Brent Watkins on Yidaki, Irihipeti Waretini on Kōauau, Jeremy Nikora on Pūmoana.



Djeembana Whakaora recognises and values traditional modes of care and knowledge transmission.  This exhibition draws on thousands of generations of specialist knowledge. It is a contemporary expression of how First Nations peoples have always responded to their own health needs within cultural contexts, and created space for themselves within the dominant European model of health.



Many modes of healing, medicinal practices and communities are represented. Many more are not. This exhibition has been curated by First Nations curators, with First Nations contributors, providing First Nations insights to medicine, health and healing. All of whom reside on the sacred lands now known as Australia.



This exhibition was curated by

Kat Clarke, a Wotjobaluk writer, artist and curator living on Wadawurrung Country.

Paris Norton, a Gomeroi/Gamilaraay, Māori artist and curator, living on Country.

Irihipeti Waretini, of Ngāti Rangi descent, a visual and vocal artist/storyteller, living in Naarm on Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung/Boon Wurrung Country.


Background: Artist Cassie Leatham performs a smoking ceremony while kneeling on a handwoven mat. Smoking ceremonies cleanse and heal the spirit. She rests the smoking leaves in a carved wooden bowl, before preparing to sing.




The concept of health within First Nations communities is commonly understood as more than the care and management of physical manifestations of illness. Indigenous Health includes the social, spiritual, emotional and ecological well being of the land, individuals and our communities.

Our practices are diverse, complex and inclusive. They are understood as holistic, cyclical care, and are maintained through intergenerational transmission of knowledge to people, places and objects.

Indigenous healing involves a variety of storytelling and sensory experiences, utilising sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, from the plants we use to the language we speak.

This exhibition therefore is guided by the interconnectedness of five key pillars: the physical, the mental, the spiritual, of place, and kinship and community.

Each contribution is aligned to a pillar but not defined by it. They allow us to explore the complex and creative weaving together of holistic cultural and healing practices.

Background: Many possum skins have been sewn together to make cloaks. Image by Peta Clancy.


Symbolism by Mandi Barton.