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Indigenous arts centre reopens bigger and better in Fed Sqaure

David Prestipino -

Melbourne's position as a leading promoter of Indigenous culture across the nation's capital cities has been cemented with the reopening of the newly-named and expanded Birrajung Building in Federation Square.

The National Indigenous Times was given a sneak peak of the new Koorie Heritage Trust arts and cultural centre, which will reopen on December 9 after a significant upgrade that allows KHT to occupy three floors of the renovated space - formerly known as Yarra Building - spread across 1700sqm at Federation Square.

The standalone Indigenous arts and cultural centre is a first-of-its-kind for a capital city and a significant promoter of First Nations history.

The exciting renovation and relaunch in the heart of Melbourne's CBD come as international interest in Aboriginal culture and tourism hits new heights, and coincide with the 11th Koorie Art Show, KHTs biggest community event and the first exhibition to feature in its expanded space.

Bringing together more than 100 First Nations artists, KHT celebrates culture, Country and community in a beautiful presentation of works on paper, photography, sculpture, multimedia, fibre art and more.

Render of proposed Level 1 public lounge. (Image: Koorie Heritage Trust)

The open call to entry means the Koorie Art Show offers a snapshot of the latest in First Nations art from across south-east Australia.

Besides hosting live sporting broadcasts and public protests since opening in 2002 on the banks of the Yarra River, Federation Square was the original heartbeat for Australians to understand and celebrate Indigenous history and culture.

Mr Mosby said the Birrarung Building would enhance Melbourne's reputation as an entry point to the story of Indigenous culture, educating visitors interstate and abroad about First Nations history, without them having to visit remote regions.

"Occupying all three levels of the Birrarung Building is such an important step for us, as we can now offer a seamless whole-of-building experience that is reflective of First Peoples connection to Country and culture," he said.

"The additional space means we are able to present more of our permanent collections, provide more opportunities for Koorie artists to exhibit their work and offer more public programs.

"The name change signifies the importance of place in the spirit of reconciliation.

The Birrarung Building renovation was a Lyons-led design collaboration between First Nations architect Jefa Greenaway and Lyons and Architecture Associates. (Image: James Henry)

"It is a beautiful space that I am immensely proud of and I welcome everyone to KHT."

The expansion will allow KHT to showcase new exhibition galleries, permanent collections and provide better community access and engagement, as well as further its education program.

The renovated 'shopKHT' will permanently be housed in the Crossbar Building, with main square frontage at the top of Fed Square.

Indigenous influences on the project came from KHT's design collaborations with First Nations architect Jefa Greenaway of Greenaway Architects, and Lyons and Architecture Associates, which has previously worked on Indigenous-themed projects.

Designers have developed a considered and beautiful plan for the building interior design and fit-out that reflected Country in a culturally-sensitive way.

Render of proposed Level 2 shopKOORIE. (Image: Koorie Heritage Trust)

Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation CEO and director, Katrina Sedgwick said the Birrarung Building was a game changer for Melbourne and Federation Square.

"We are so delighted that the Koorie Heritage Trust is expanding to fill all three floors of the renamed Birrarung Building with this stunning new fit out," she said.

"We'd like to thank the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation for their generous consultation with us to determine the new name of this important building at the heart of our town square."

KHT's expansion was supported by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, the Aboriginal Community Infrastructure Program and Federation Square through the Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation.

The Koorie Art Show is a non-acquisitive award, with all entries eligible for awards. It runs from December 9 to February 25.

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